4. Improving cross-cultural interactions at the SME
Cultural awareness at the job is essential with in-company interactions and with clients to the company. Lack of understanding of other cultures you are working with will impact productivity, delivery of the right solutions and team cooperation. Especially in contact with foreign countries, cultural awareness can be a merger in business, otherwise cultural differences will cast a cloud over doing business together.
Even when you are observing such situations at the SME, you can learn your lesson, and many other lessons by the way, on how cultures matters and how small actions can make a big difference. Culture in fact is a critical enabler and success factor for open innovation. This is due to the fact that open innovation requires a culture where collaboration, knowledge sharing, teambuilding and co-development are highly valued.
But what are some universal rules aimed at improving cross-cultural interactions?
- Observe and learn. Be prepared and find out something about the culture of your hearer / client / colleague.
- Be open and sensitive to differences. Take time to understand that people are not the same, open up to new cultures and accept that others can be different than you.
- Demonstrate patience in communication. It is not always possible to avoid misunderstandings in communication with foreigners due to different pronunciation, slips of the tongue or unknown phrases – don’t make this an issue.
- Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Besides of words, be aware of body language and what it means since across cultures they don’t mean the same.
- Be aware of gestures and rituals. Showing your appreciation will demonstrate your politeness, even small ways of greeting or exchange of business cards.
- Socialize with the team. To learn more about the different cultures, do not ignore them, but built positive relationships with teammates and look for similarities that bring you together.
- Be an active listener. Not only observation, but also listening to capture the complete meaning of the message, avoiding misconceptions or misunderstandings, but also properly addressing the situation are key.
- Take part in training sessions. Either show your own initiative to learn about intercultural relations from open education resources (available online for free) or sign up for a course. You can also investigate the possibility to have workshops at the SME during which the trainers will be the employees speaking about different cultures they have experienced working with.
- Be proactive. Show interest in the world around you. Try new things. Ask questions. Make notes. Spread the word about interesting things you learn about cultures new to you. Exchange experiences.