Onto week 3 out of 4 from the FutureLearn/CommonPurpose looking at ‘cultural intelligence’. As someone who likes to meet new people all the time, likes to try new things, has travelled a lot, and focuses on digital culture … finding it really interesting, even if I don’t have time to engage with it on the deepest level!
- 1 The need to experiment
- 2 My Cultural Intelligence grew most when…
- 3 Planting the seed
- 4 My Core is…….
- 5 Stick to it
- 6 People like me
- 7 Working out the knots
- 8 Finding common ground
- 9 Addressing our knots
- 10 Calibrating our Flex
- 11 What did you say?
- 12 That’s not funny
- 13 Did you hear the one about….
- 14 Local knowledge
- 15 Physical issues
- 16 How is this relevant?
- 17 Sharing our resource
The need to experiment
Finding our Core, and the values, behaviours, beliefs and habits within it must be done in a way that is credible to us, and to others. Here are ten examples of ways we can find our Core:
- Find something you love doing and ask yourself why you love it
- Go somewhere you don’t know and where you won’t feel comfortable
- Find a story in your heritage and figure out why it has stuck with you
- Find moments of stress and unpick them
- Keep digging
- Do something you ‘don’t do’
- Work out clashes in Core
- Go to the place that best connects us with your Core
- Establish our own stories
- Keep looking outwards
You’ll need to join the course for further clarification of each, but this reminds me of the image to the right – we tend to say we’re ‘not creative’ or ‘not artistic’, because we’ve been told that we don’t fit our society’s perception of such … but we can do it because we enjoy it, rather than it being about the outcomes! Also connects with some work that I do with Beyond Chocolate – challenging society’s norms about where we have got our feelings/identity about our bodies from!
My Cultural Intelligence grew most when…
Do we understand aspects of our behaviour, traditions, beliefs that are part of our ‘culture’, and when are these challenged? For many it is school, travel, university, etc. where meet others who believe differently, and start to question what is ‘normal’? I think PhD was where I really started to question who I was, what I stood for, and what I wanted to achieve/offer to the world, etc…
I travelled to Uganda with Tearfund a couple of years ago, and one outstanding person we met was Richard, who believed it was his wife’s duty to do all the work, and he would hang around drinking/beat her up if a problem. Other Ugandans, supported by funding, came into work with the community and worked with these men to encourage a different way of thinking/being – very inspiring (and I don’t think in a western dominant way!)
Planting the seed
My Core grew most when………….. (these questions might help)
- What do you love doing and why? Is it inherited or individual to you?
- Where can you go to step outside of your comfort zone?
- What story from your heritage has stuck with you and why?
- What moment in your life has caused you most stress?
- What are some of the weaknesses in your Core that you need to deal with?
- When have you done something very different to what you would have done normally? What was the result?
- Where have you come across potential clashes in your Core and what was the outcome?
- Do you have a place that connects you to your Core?
- Has there been an instance when you have broken away from your cultural heritage?
- When have you recently challenged your Core?
Again, a lot of these questions are brought up within coaching, and increasingly, as I have travelled, I have continued to push myself to something new. Currently new city, new job, and lots of new material to teach! Making sure take time to experience some of the new things outside of work (that I want to, rather than being forced to – I’m not quite going for Yes Man – in fact learning how to say no more!)… on a v mundane level the other week I decided to try a Bloody Mary cocktail … I didn’t like it, so another new experience, I left an expensive drink on the table!
My Core is…….
As leaders we have to make frequent judgement calls about how much reveal – if we don’t reveal enough, people won’t trust us, that we’re above them, and we will be lacking a generosity of spirit/2-way conversation which is key.
I feel a little uncomfortable that I’m not undertaking the 30 second video talking about my core. #Timeisshort
Stick to it
This section’s material focuses upon Ove Arup’s Key Speech, something that every new company employee needs to understand, encompassing values/vision of Arup Partners. I love this extract:
There are two ways of looking at the work you do to earn a living:
One is the way propounded by the late Henry Ford: Work is a necessary evil, but modern technology will reduce it to a minimum. Your life is your leisure lived in your ‘free’ time.
The other is: To make your work interesting and rewarding. You enjoy both your work and your leisure.
We opt uncompromisingly for the second way.
There are also two ways of looking at the pursuit of happiness:
One is to go straight for the things you fancy without restraints, that is, without considering anybody else besides yourself.
The other is: to recognise that no man is an island, that our lives are inextricably mixed up with those of our fellow human beings, and that there can be no real happiness in isolation. Which leads to an attitude which would accord to others the rights claimed for oneself, which would accept certain moral or humanitarian restraints.
We, again, opt for the second way.
I would like to read the rest of that document before too long! Ove Arup’s speech also includes the line ‘the man who bangs his head against the wall could learn from the reed that bends in the wind’. Know what you stand for, but be prepared to flex! The rest of the Futurelearn material from this section focuses upon a conversation with someone coping with living in Britain, but working within Turkish culture, and how this is a challenge as dual-cores challenge for ‘supremacy’.
Sometimes we need to sit down with someone who is very different from us and just listen.
People like me
We will typically lean towards those who are similar to us. This week we are challenged to exploring the core ideas of those from other generations (at least 15 years above/below). Making me twitch as to whether this fits with conversations about e.g. ‘digital natives‘ and ‘millenials‘ … whereas essentially human nature hasn’t significantly changed over the centuries (or has it – that’s a question I’m interested in!). Well, I have found it “interesting” to adapt to teaching 18 year olds again, after 5 years of working with mature students, staff, and those undertaking CPD – having to adjust a number of working practices as working with differing core views – especially in teaching ethical, responsible and sustainable marketing!
Working out the knots
Ah, I recognise that picture – I just used that in teaching the other week (see perceptions in marketing) – we are challenged, if we didn’t know that there were two separate – would we just have accepted our first impression as fact?
We need to seek out our ‘knots’ or ‘unconscious biases‘, which we have accepted as ‘fact’ – we need to put the spotlight on them, and ‘work them out’:
Knots are deeply held beliefs and assumptions which influence our decisions and how we work with other people. Sometimes they form due to poor experiences we have had and we end up basing all future decisions on that one bad moment, without looking for different perspectives.
Finding common ground
Talking to a Hungarian working as an investment banker, and struggling with how he was going to work with Romanians – based upon a number of stereotypes he had in his head!
The way to do that is and was to find common values, and there are lots of common values. And not to look at what the difference is but to look at the similarities and also to try to realise where I have my blocks and where I have certain things which I have to change…. The common value was the football, which most of us loved, and that was the basis on which we could build and we could then discuss further and find a solution.
This is one of my favourite parts in life – looking for the common connection points for conversation, and seeing where that can move forward to! Makes life superbly interesting!
Addressing our knots
In order to overcome personal biases we need to challenge them – we are encouraged to think of the word association that we have with e.g. ‘politician’, to consider whether those connotations are positive or negative, and then consider one that falls into ‘negative’, challenge ourselves to seek out someone who falls into that category, and consider where your ‘knots’ come from, does that meeting challenge them, and identify where are the commonalities?
Calibrating our Flex
Four areas where people particularly struggle with flexing:
- using language
- whether humour helps or hinders
- adapting to local ways
- dressing and greeting
What did you say?
Language is key … meaning can be lost across the generations (think of phrases that come in and out of use), and the jargon used in so many sectors that can be seen as ‘in-language’.
English is the official language in many places, which in many ways has made some conversations easier, but there can be problems… as it can be used differently, and even those who learn it may have different nuances leading to misunderstandings. Many English speakers have never had to learn a second language which can lead to other problems:
- Don’t experience frustration of trying to communicate in a second language
- Don’t understand the complexity and nuance of translation – how vulnerable to mis-interpretation
- Think that those speaking language have cultural understandings beyond that it possible to acquire with just language
Language continues to evolve, and tone/accents are also important. Leaders understand the importance of flexing the words that they use (e.g. beware using the word ‘kids’ – may encourage people to behave like kids).
That’s not funny
Care with humour – can be great for connection, but only if you know the audience well – need to know that the sense of humour are likely to match (we all know that e.g.sarcasm doesn’t travel well from UK to USA). Alan Rosling, British businessman working in India says:
- Be careful: jokes don’t travel
- We have to laugh with people, and not at them
- Find something that people can laugh about together
- Teasing is good – but not until you know people well
- Best of all: laugh at yourself.
Did you hear the one about….
Ha – this joke with the Dalai Lama did NOT work! See also cross-cultural jokes here (another video to watch later):
The importance of genuine local knowledge, and being prepared to look at the world through the eyes of others… listen carefully to answers/what they are saying and their ways of communicating – we then build up local knowledge and cultural intelligence… We are given a story of growing understanding of ways to communicate between western thinking (facts/targets), and African thinking (communicated through stories).
Lots of complexity here – how we eat, when to bow; what we can show (legs? head? feet?) and what we can’t; how to greet, and how to part…. lots of fine calls to be made. Think about how you respond to respond physically e.g. to someone you respect, someone you distrust … and how that has changed over the years
How is this relevant?
How are you putting cultural intelligence into practice? It’s a lifelong journey of understanding/learning and flexing. Julia Middleton talks about being a student and deliberately seeking out others who were not like her – although she believes she took this to the extreme! It’s important knowledge to take into forming – understanding that you don’t want everyone to be like you (again, something just taught in lectures this week!) – and also to recognise where your core is problematic – e.g. for Julia – she is driven by passion:
But it’s also slightly my weakness because if you become very passionate, you become strangely and incredibly intolerant of anybody who doesn’t share the same passion as you do.
I get that – need to find people with different passions (or who are not driven in the same way!).
Sharing our resource
What resources can you suggest from across cultures that will increase our collaborative learning (written, audio, video, online, music, etc.). My first thought was travel writing – as it’s people open to seeing new perspectives on everyday life! I suspect there are many (much deeper!)
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.