RW3 CultureWizard developed the Intercultural Awareness Model (ICAM) to help global professionals better understand the forces driving their workplace interactions, in addition to recognizing the cultural forces at play with their colleagues, clients and partners all over the world.The ICAM consists of 8 dimensions of culture that essentially help us connect values and beliefs to their resulting workplace behaviors and patterns. It is critical to understand that if you believe something, your behavior is most likely informed by that belief. For example, if you believe that communication with your boss is appropriate and ideal when it’s direct and transparent, then you are likely going to speak in similarly direct and transparent ways to your boss. The following describes each of the 8 dimensions:
- Hierarchy: The way people view authority and power, how much they defer to people in authority, if they feel entitled to express themselves and whether they feel free to make independent decisions and take initiative.
- Group: The importance and well-being of the individual versus the group or society, and whether accomplishments are an individual or group endeavor.
- Relationships: The importance and time devoted to building relationships and developing trust. What takes precedence in making a business decision: the people involved or objective business criteria?
- Communication: The way societies communicate, including verbal and nonverbal expression, the amount of background information people need for understanding, and how directly or indirectly people speak.
- Time: The degree to which people believe they can control time, whether schedules or people are more important, and attitudes towards keeping time and punctuality.
- Formality: The importance a culture attributes to appearance and demeanor as an indicator of status, the importance of protocol and etiquette and use of titles, surnames and honorifics.
- Control: Openness to change and innovation, willingness to take risks and if people feel they control their destiny or if their environment controls them. Also, how the organization encourages and rewards initiative and permits failure.
- Motivation: The relative importance and value attached to professional vs. personal lives. The source of an individual’s identity and self-esteem. How status and success are defined by society.
We use the ICAM to teach two vital skills:
- How to recognize your personal cultural style vis-à-vis other country’s cultural norms.
- How to interpret and respond to cultural differences in the most effective way.
Using the chart below, which depicts the country norms for both China and the US, see if you can relate to any particular gap between the two.
For example, Chinese culture is very interpersonal when compared to US culture, which is far more transactional. In business, this may pose challenges for Chinese and Americans, who will want to take more or less time to build interpersonal trust. Chinese often ask more questions to learn more about their American counterparts as a way of verifying trustworthiness and understanding their objectives. On the other hand, Americans generally don’t spend much time speaking about themselves or their personal backgrounds, and prefer to fast forward into practical, business-focused discussions. Knowing that this gap exists allows businesspeople to formulate different strategies to build relationships without the often damaging cultural clashes that occur due to lack of cultural awareness.
While we can use CultureWizard’s database of norms for over 155 countries, the model serves as a universal framework for connecting behaviors to underlying values in an effort to better understand our colleagues, irrespective of where they come from. In turn, the ICAM gives professionals a roadmap to creating strategies in more effective and productive ways.
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