The yearly BMW Group Intercultural Commitment Award has been honouring projects that promote intercultural dialogue since 1997. The award allows the BMW Group to establish partnerships with the winning projects, and is a testimony to BMW’s stated commitment to fostering peaceful and successful interactions between people from different cultures and backgrounds.
What makes an interaction successful? Can you always distinguish between one that is and one that is not? This is often a harder question to answer than you would expect.
Each party may approach an interaction with different expectations as to how it should unfold and they may then leave it with different perceptions as to how it unfolded. In a business environment, you could argue that success is measured in terms of making a profit, of sealing a contract or of establishing a partnership. Yet these are end results, the final objective of an often longer process, each stage of which requires interactions such as negotiations, conversations and exchanges between individuals.
When interactions span different cultures, uncertainty increases as shared customs, communication styles and attitudes give way to rising cross cultural differences. Given the element of risk generated by cross cultural differences, no matter how technically able a business person or organisation is international success will depend on their levels of intercultural competence.
Intercultural competence is really important for any individual or organisation working globally. Anyone wishing to be considered for BMW’s Intercultural Commitment award should be able to show a high level of intercultural competence. In other words, they should have a mix of the personal characteristics and skills required to develop and maintain relationships and communicate effectively across cultures, attaining compliance and cooperation.
Intercultural competence is particularly important to consider when selecting expatriates for international assignments or appointing managers of international projects or teams. Given the ever increasing global dimension of business, however, you could argue that intercultural competence is a skill all employees of an ambitious, competitive and interculturally committed company should have. The question therefore becomes: can intercultural competence be taught, or does it only come through repeated exposure to intercultural interactions?
The answer is both. While intercultural awareness and competence can certainly be achieved by having repeated exposure to intercultural interactions and through trial and error, it is undeniably better to undertake specialist training designed to develop cross-cultural communication skills and awareness before working internationally. Once a misunderstanding has happened, it might be too late or difficult to rectify it, which in turn may cause a break in communication altogether and loss of a profitable deal.
The cultural knowledge gained and skills developed through intercultural training courses such as Developing Global Competence will provide a strong foundation from which to start a global role on the right track. By using all the tools and skills acquired through Communicaid’s cross cultural awareness training programmes, you and your company will be better equipped to deal with international colleagues and show a high level of intercultural commitment, perhaps warranting consideration from BMW’s Intercultural Commitment Award!
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010