The globalization of the economy and the digital outburst have made borders fall apart. This is a fact. Y and Z generations surf on the internet with obvious easiness. But that is again another banality. They are never satisfied and therefore want to have an impressive amount of information available, exchange numerous tips on the web and go and study abroad. Internationalization seems obvious to them, and they turn up in their host countries like Christopher Columbus in the making.
Integration issues are often met when they arrive in neighboring countries like Spain or Belgium, let alone in countries with very different cultures like India or China. At some point, their lack of preparation in decoding cultures is emphasized.
Our ethnocentric vision makes us forget that in real life as well as in a virtual world, each culture is led by a series of dimensions explaining our foreign counterparts’ attitudes and behaviors. It is not only a question of mastering the language – translating is also betraying – but also of being able to use a frame of reference in order to decode the other.
Higher education should prepare younger generations to compromise and work in intercultural contexts. The students’ demand is constantly growing. Let us give the successful example of the Executive Master’s Degree at Dauphine University in Paris, the only Intercultural Training available in Europe in French. The discipline has recently been introduced into Business Schools and universities.
Intercultural Management: Instructions
First things first. Let us define “culture”. It is a complex whole of norms, values and habits of a group, which distinguishes it from another group with different norms, values and habits. In other words, it is a tacit collective.
Since the sixties United States intercultural management theories have started to expand and been implemented everywhere in the world. Anthropologists and sociologists observing that there were communication issues between cultures, designed and developed models to approach frames of references such as time, space. Among the most famous ones, the American Edward T. Hall, the Dutch Geert Hofstede and the French Philippe d’Iribarne, and many more, all allowing to bridge between different groups and at the same time pushing universalism and ethnocentrism into the background.
Their research made it possible to discover keys to decode practices and behaviors linked to a whole of underlying and unconscious values and norms, also known as cultural dimensions.
Given the growing interactivity of different economies, innovative companies have slowly started developing a kind of management that takes intercultural differences into account, which are part of the different steps of their internationalization.
Intercultural management was born and developed at the same time a real need of awareness and trained co-workers and new recruits.
Intercultural Management and Higher Education, Slowly Developing
This very recent discipline is not yet really favored. Everybody still assumes that it is enough to use some common sense to solve misunderstandings across cultures. Common sense is not enough, though. One should take the relationship to context, time, space or authority into account.
Some schools slowly develop the discipline and propose some Intercultural management modules. The point is for the students to be able to grasp international issues and the necessary communication within multicultural teams.
The courses can be considered as an awareness and will allow students to discover and appreciate differences, as well as interpret the signs sent by individuals of different cultures. It will also allow them to more easily be integrated in a new culture, by limiting potential difficulties and clashes, far from “clichés” and, turning differences into strengths and develop the company’s performance.
There is no better culture than another; they are just different. Each of them brings along its own advantages and makes it possible to students to become more attractive for companies which want to go international. French Tech startups included. There are testimonies on the Internet of some issues experienced by French start uppers in the US. Even Franco-French companies express the need. Intercultural communication and management are not especially linked with Nation-States, it is a way of reconsidering the human factor, major asset for performance.
Intercultural Management: A Student’s Point of View
Our experience with students confronts us with the fact that going international is obvious to a majority of them.
Concrete case studies taught in master’s degrees at universities or Business Schools and the discovery of the cultural dimensions proved and convinced us of the necessity to teach Intercultural Communication and Management to students. Every Bachelor, Master, MBA programs are concerned, be it strategic human resources, international management, international marketing, business administration, international relations, etc.
All of them welcome us warmly, since they can immediately see the benefits of these classes in their professional as well as in their personal lives.
Intercultural Management makes it possible for them to get concrete answers to their questions and needs, when facing some everyday puzzling situations.
Let us listen to two of our students: “This course allowed me to understand what an obstacle it could be to understand my counterparts but also my own culture.”
Another student told us that: “My English is very good, and I did not expect to be unsettled by the way my Texan family lived and my internship manager reacted. I can understand the impact of the cultural aspects better now…. I would have liked to discover this module …before my departure!”
There is no better reward for our professors and trainers in Intercultural management.