How to develop Cultural Flexibility in Your Organisation

Cultural Flexibility is an Applied Skill - not a Theory

As Mars experienced, classroom-based training can only take one so far in learning a new skill. Developing Cultural Flexibility in business takes 4 steps:

First, you or others within the organisation need to build cultural knowledge of different cultural styles. This can help determine whether a particular business challenge is culturally influenced or not, as many other factors also play a role.

Next, the knowledge needs to be applied to your business context to be truly effective. For example, Mars integrated cultural flexibility into their business strategy, such as "How can we become more effective with our top 20 (international) customers?" and its company-wide activities "How we give feedback (across cultures)".

Thirdly, different roles within the same company involve different activities and priorities. Integrate cultural flexibility into your personal day-to-day by asking "how can I use this right now for my current work goals and tasks?". This leads to actionable, practical strategies that are uniquely useful to you. Mars truly reaped the benefits of cultural intelligence once their people applied it to a specific, immediate activity of theirs, such as upcoming client negotiations.

Finally, as with any skill, practice makes perfect. Or as Bas puts it, "your cultural muscle needs exercising regularly".

He sums up Mars' continuous process to deal with intercultural challenges:

  1. Decide for yourself whether there are cultural factors at play

  2. Hold your judgement

  3. Go into the (cultural) science, use the tools and develop a technical strategy

  4. Implement it, enjoy it, have a laugh, and try again.

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