IABC member and Stories and Strategies podcast host Doug Downs, SCMP, interviewed World Conference 2022 speaker Subhamoy Das about intercultural communication. Here, Doug shares his “a-ha” moment from their conversation and encourages readers to continue the intercultural communication conversation at World Conference this June.
Sometimes realizing something you already knew can be astounding. It’s as if the knowledge you’ve had for a long time suddenly becomes a feeling — an awareness in its fullest sense. The dictionary calls that an epiphany. You always understood it, but now … you get it.
I had one of those recently. I was chatting with friend Subhamoy Das, the president of IABC India, for my global podcast Stories and Strategies. We discussed intercultural communication in the workplace. Subhamoy authored an exceptional chapter on the subject for the new book, “The IABC Guide for Practical Business Communication: A Global Standard Primer.” He is also presenting on intercultural communication at the IABC World Conference 2022 in New York, 26–29 June.
Communication Between Cultures Is Not New
Within the chapter, Subhamoy points out communication between and among cultures has existed for thousands of years. Fast forward to 2022: we as communication professionals often struggle with the concept. With the digital world blurring boundaries and corporations becoming more global, we comms pros need to keep up. Culture has substantial influence on how we communicate — the nuances, however subtle, define us.
In the chapter and on the podcast episode, Subhamoy describes theories led by Mijnd Huijser and others. He also gives modern examples via Exxon Mobil, GE and the Bharti Airtel acquisition of Zain Telecom in Africa.
Hofstede’s 7 Culture Clusters
For me, the epiphany came when he explained the seven culture clusters via Hofstede’s 6D model:
- Competitor Culture: Business deals are often viewed as a game with competitive values under the surface. This cluster includes the Anglo-Saxon countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
- Organizer Culture: The importance of structure organizations and diligently following orders is valued, like in Germany.
- Connected Culture: In Scandinavian and Dutch countries, openness and transparency is valued above everything else.
- Diplomat Culture: In countries such as Belgium and France, societies respect individual freedoms as well as hierarchy.
- Reciprocator Culture: Countries across the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, and East and West Africa mostly interact by exchanging favors.
- Marathonian Culture: Countries like China accept the idea that real intentions do not need to be identified or revealed right away.
- Craftsman Culture: In countries like Japan, societies are willing and eager to get into meticulous detail about everything.
Among all the tactics, objectives and strategies we work through every day, we’re constantly guided by the need to align with human values. Within these seven culture clusters, I realized the values I default to are not necessarily shared or appreciated with the same importance. For example, my default culture is competitor. Through fair competition, businesses will offer the best products and services at the best prices. I tend to believe our very evolution as a species has been competitive with the strongest surviving. To me, it seems like natural order. That’s not necessarily a shared value globally. I may as well be developing communication strategies aimed entirely at “fair competition,” while others will see the end goal as better structure or reciprocation. We aren’t kicking toward the same goal posts.
For communication to succeed between cultures, we need to take several steps backward in our understanding of people. We need to unlearn what we think we know to be true. We have to nurture these communication lines and not take for granted that the path to our goals is shared — nor that the goals themselves are even the same. We have to listen.
Learn more about intercultural communication in our global workforce during Subhamoy’s interactive breakout session at the IABC World Conference 2022, and order your copy of “The IABC Guide for Practical Business Communication: A Global Standard Primer” to review his chapter.
Finally, check out Subhamoy’s episode of Stories and Strategies on Apple, Spotify or Gaana.
Doug Downs, SCMP, Featuring Subhamoy Das
Doug Downs, SCMP, is the host of Stories and Strategies, a longtime IABC member and holds the SCMP designation. He lives in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, on the other side of the globe from Subhamoy Das, who lives in New Delhi, India.