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The Dangers of Operating in a Globalized World Without Inter-Cultural Intelligence

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Part 1 of 3

The Biggest Challenge in Global Operations: You don’t know what you don’t know

In the inter-cultural space, everyone has the same problem: you don’t know what you don’t know. That hole in the knowledge ecosystem can have serious repercussions.

This article is based on 12-15 years of being in almost every continent working with issues related to globalization, Inter-Cultural Intelligence, and assisting clients dealing with inter-culturally complex situations.

I remember the very first client we dealt with related to intercultural complexity came to us and said, "We don't know what's wrong: we've tried Leadership Development; we've tried Team Building; we tried programs on dealing with difficult conversations – but the problem just doesn't seem to go away.” When we looked at it carefully together, we discovered that they had a case of tribal warfare; four distinct cultural groupings had formed in the organization and caused the challenges that they faced.

What you don't know, you don't know. They had never considered looking at the intercultural angle to resolve those issues, and they kept going to the wrong "solutions" – so they were not solutions to them at all.

The biggest challenge

This is probably one of the biggest challenges we face: that a lot of people have not used the lens of inter-cultural intelligence to look at their challenges. I'll give you another example:

I heard a story yesterday from one of the institutions in the IT industry, where one colleague was a serious challenge. This lady consistently said, "No, we have to do it this way, and here is why…" She did not know about the possibility of there are other ways of dealing with the same issues, or why as a result she became so difficult for her other colleagues. She did not know about the Three Colors of Worldview: that while there is an Innocence/Guilt way of dealing with things, there can also be Honor/Shame and Power/Fear ways of dealing with them. She did not know the Twelve Dimensions: she expected everyone to be individually accountable without realizing that there may be some people who look at some things through the lens of Community Accountability – which happened to be especially true for the people that she was dealing with.

So there are many areas where a lack of inter-cultural intelligence can have serious repercussions when it comes to working and living in the inter-cultural space. In our upcoming articles, we will explore each of these in turn:

  • HR Headaches

  • Traumatic Transitions

  • Retention Wrecks

  • Recruiting Failures

  • Leadership Disasters

  • Communication Collapse

  • Stakeholder Missteps

  • Merger Nightmares

  • Learning & Development Casualties

  • Career Advancement Flops

  • Coaching Debacles

These are just a few highlights, but they provide a start towards turning some unknown unknowns into known unknowns, and making your organization more able to deal with the complexity of operation in an inter-cultural world.

Marco Blankenburgh is the International Director of KnowledgeWorkx, which he founded in 2001 to design and deliver consulting, training and coaching solutions for inter-culturally complex environments.

Contact us to learn more about how KnowledgeWorkx can help you develop inter-cultural intelligence in your organization. You can also start your culture learning journey from our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.


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