Culture is Everything

Larry S. Persons, PhD

CULTURE is everything! “Don’t be ridiculous,” you say, but hang on. Let’s think about basic communication.

You want to tell me something? Well, what language will you be speaking, and do I understand that language? If it’s a language we both know, will your accent be so different that I only get pieces of the message?

What values lie beneath your words and your non-verbal cues? That’s culture. Will they be obvious to me (probably not), and even if they are obvious, do they align with my values, because if they don’t I’ll either resist your message or completely misinterpret your meaning.

Communication is not about delivering a well-crafted message. It’s about making sure the receiver gets what you wanted him to have. It’s about knowing your audience well, and in a global jungle…THAT’s a monumental challenge.

Cross-cultural team working together
Global colleagues talking together

Cultural intelligence rises to that challenge. With CQ on board, we change by practicing essential survival skills for the global jungle:

  • Remembering that people have hugely diverse assumptions about what’s valuable
  • Accepting that there are many creative ways to solve the same problem
  • Developing the agility to quickly learn what we must know about a new cultural context
  • Anticipating cultural disconnects that will arise and planning proactively to address them
  • Learning to code-switch based on micro-context
  • Respecting and leveraging diversity.

If you’re doing business across national borders, it’s insane to ignore culture. Yet we do it all the time.

Prepping for a merger or an acquisition? Legal due diligence. Check. Financial due diligence. Absolutely. Commercial due diligence—every time! But where’s the cultural due diligence?

All other forms of diligence cannot protect us from risk if we ignore culture. In that sense, culture is everything!