Teaching Intercultural Management: A Necessity to Succeed Cross-Borders

The globalization of the economy and the digital revolution have made borders fall apart. This is a fact. Generations Y and Z surf the internet with remarkable ease. But that is again another banality. Insatiable, they have access to an impressive amount of information, exchange numerous tips on the web, and study abroad all over the world. Internationalization seems obvious to them, and they turn up in their host countries like Christopher Columbuses, wet behind the ears.

However, many students face integration issues not only when they arrive in countries far from theirs, but also in their neighboring countries. Such difficulties highlight their lack of preparation to decode other cultures.

Our ethnocentric vision sometimes makes us forget that in real life, as well as in the virtual world, each culture is governed by a set of dimensions that explain the attitudes and behaviors of our foreign counterparts. Is not only a question of mastering the language—”translating is treason”—but also of being able to use a frame of reference to understand the other.

Higher education should prepare younger generations to interact and work in intercultural contexts. The students’ demand for such preparations is constantly growing. An example is the successful example of the Executive Master’s Degree at Dauphine University in Paris, the only Intercultural Management Masters offered in Europe in French. The discipline has recently been introduced into Business Schools and universities.

Intercultural Management: Instruction Manual

First things first. Let us define “culture”. As a whole, it is a set 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.

Intercultural management has been a prominent topic since the 1960s when American management theories began to spread and to be implemented all over the world. Observing that there were communication issues between cultures, anthropologists and sociologists have designed and developed frames of reference based on dimensions such as time and space. Amongst the most famous are Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, and Philippe d’Iribarne, who help build bridges between different groups while trying to relegate universalism and ethnocentrism to history (alongside the Greek calendar.)

Their research made it possible to discover keys to decode practices and behaviors linked to a set of implicit and unconscious values and norms, closely tied to cultural dimensions.

Given the growth in the interactivity of different economies, companies have slowly started to develop management that takes into account intercultural differences, which are a part of the different phases of their internationalization. Intercultural management was born, leading to a need for employees and new recruits to be trained in this new type of

Intercultural Management and Higher Education: a slow development

This recent discipline is still far from widespread. Many still assume that it is enough to use some common sense to solve misunderstandings across cultures However, common sense is clearly not sufficient. It is indeed necessary to take into account perceptions of time, space,
and authority.

Higher education has slowly taken hold of the subject, and different institutions are setting up intercultural management modules. The point is for the students to be able to grasp international issues and the necessary communication within multicultural teams.

This training, largely based on raising awareness, will allow students to discover and appreciate differences, as well as interpret the signs sent by individuals of different cultures. Intercultural management will also allow them to integrate more easily into a different culture, thereby limiting or attenuating potential clashes and avoiding “clichés”, to turn differences into strengths and improve their company’s performance.

There is no culture better than the other; there are just different cultures with their own advantages that make students more attractive for companies that want to develop internationally This includes French Tech startups. There are testimonies on the Internet of some issues experienced by French startuppers in the US. In fact, even Franco-French companies and organizations have expressed this need. Intercultural communication and management are not particularly linked with Nation-States, but rather a way of reconsidering the human factor as a major asset for development and 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 cases in Master’s degrees in universities or in Business Schools, as well as the discovery of the impact of the different dimensions that we mentioned previously, have reinforced our convictions on the need to teach intercultural 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 and personal lives.

Intercultural Management makes it possible for them to get concrete answers to their questions and needs when facing some everyday puzzling situations. As one of our students put it: “This intercultural management training not only allowed me to understand what could potentially bother my counterparts but also to understand my own culture.” A student returning from the United States told us: “My English is very good, and I didn’t expect to be so unsettled by the way of life of my Texan hosts and by my internship manager’s behavior. I now understand better the impacts of cultural aspects and I would have liked to discover this module … before leaving !”

There is no better reward for our professors and trainers in Intercultural management.

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