12 Dimensions of Culture, #3
Outlook is the third of the 12 Dimensions of Culture that KnowledgeWorkx uses to map out the intercultural terrain. If you haven't already, you should read our article introducing the 12 Dimensions.
How do you look to the future? The impact of innovation and tradition.
In many cultures, tradition is very important. The historical trail of your family, your tribe, your business, your nation is an integral part of your personal and corporate identity and considering that trail plays a big part in the decisions you make.
In other cultures, you might spend most of your attention on the present, while in still others you focus on the future. The terms KnowledgeWorkx decided to use for “Past” and “Future” focus are Tradition and Innovation.
Tradition and Innovation
Someone with a more Tradition oriented outlook needs to get a full understanding of the past as a reference point and a starting point for thinking about the future. Meanwhile, the person with a more Innovation-oriented outlook spends little time on the past and dives straight into the present and the future.
How to Engage a Tradition-Oriented Culture
When you are engaging in a culture where a tradition-oriented outlook is the main driver, you should make sure that you present yourself with that same outlook. Spend a significant amount of time on your organization’s history; the founders, the people involved, and how it has an impact on society. You walk through the complete historical record before saying, "and because of this rich history in our company, we are now sitting here at the table to engage with you in the hope that together we can continue the rich history that we have."
Diving straight into the present and the future could cause friction because people who are tradition-oriented in their outlook validate the present and the future through the past.
New CEOs can give the impression that they don’t care about the past, and that they don’t want to learn from their predecessors. However, this can create a strong negative atmosphere among employees and managers who have a tradition-oriented outlook. They might think that the new CEO is disrespectful, or even incompetent, because "a good leader learns from the past and uses that learning to plot the future."
This may be surprising to people who have a strong future-orientation! Sometimes innovation has nothing to do with the past, but at other times the past has a lot to say about a new idea. So it is very important to keep both of these dimensions in mind. When working in a tradition-oriented culture, make sure that innovation is always validated. Consider similar things that the company has already tried, and ask, “What can we learn from that?” This is crucial for developing the support you will need to move forward.
Sales is another area where it is extremely important to take both Tradition and Innovation outlooks into account. If there is a longstanding history between the companies, your new hotshot salesperson needs to study that history, and understand it, before engaging with the client. It would be perceived as disrespectful if a salesperson or new key account manager does not know the rich history that both the client and supplier have together.
If you find out where you stand on the Tradition vs Innovation scale, and learn to read where the people around you fall, you can modify your behavior to interact appropriately with them at any given time. You can also strengthen the links between Innovation and Tradition in your thought process to make better decisions.
You can find out where your key stakeholders stand on the ‘Outlook’ dimension, as well as eleven other dimensions of culture by using the Cultural Mapping Inventory, as part of a holistic program to develop Inter-Cultural Intelligence in your organization.
This is just one piece of KnowledgeWorkx' core framework. View the whole framework here.
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