How cross cultural knowledge is winning business

Let me say upfront, I’m biased.  I mean, really biased!

Firstly, I’ve been involved in the development of TMA World’s Country Navigator online tool for a long time.  The Country Navigator provides expert guidance, tips, and training on cross cultural knowledge how to do business in over 90 countries.

Secondly – and this is very important – I’m culturally biased like everyone else.  I was born and raised in England, and I’ve spent most of my working life in the United States.  Those experiences have been enormously influential on my typical feelings, thoughts and behaviors – my biases.

Working as many of us do in a global environment, we are continually challenged to understand and work with cultural differences.  Whether we meet with international customers and business partners, or we work on regional or global virtual teams, our success depends on our cultural intelligence.

You don’t have to take my word for it which, as I’ve told you, is highly biased.

Example of how IBM use cross cultural knowledge to increase trade

It was reported in The Hindu – an English-language Indian daily newspaper that – IBM managers . . . never forget to check Country Navigator as a rule before leaving on a business trip.  It happens to be their culture barometer ‘when in Rome’.  Being forewarned about what is to come certainly helps.

Country Navigator users can complete a questionnaire and then immediately access their personal cultural profile, i.e.  a visual and written explanation of their dominant cultural orientations toward, for example, communication, risk, time, power, and problem solving.  By comparing his or her profile to a country profile, the user can find out where the main cultural differences are likely to be and prepare.

Country profiles are also accompanied with practical tips and strategies for building productive relationships with people from the target business culture.

Hamsanandhi Seshan, Director, Communications, Global Delivery at IBM told Business Today that the Country Navigator had helped her win a deal with a Dutch company.  “I came on board only four months before they [the negotiations] were completed,” she said.  “I tried to understand why it was taking so long to close the deal.”  Seshan found a major cultural difference between the Indian and Dutch companies (hierarchical vs. bottom-up decision making).  Knowing this helped Seshan make a convincing case that a cultural fit between the two organisations was possible.

In another instance, an IBM Industry Consultant in Hyderabad was looking to win a management relations contract, again with a Dutch company.  A tiny – some might say insignificant – fact about the Netherlands sealed the deal.  When the Dutch team visited, the Consultant invited the members to a waterfront restaurant for dinner. So what, you might say!  The Consultant had learned that the Dutch like waterfront views – they remind them of their home country.

Dr. Chandrasekhar, Vice President and Head (HR) India & South Asia told The Hindu that multi-cultural awareness is a business imperative.  An IBM’er spends at least 30-40 per cent of a day interacting with people of other cultures, and as we have seen in the above stories . . .

A little cross cultural knowledge can go a long way.


Boost your ability to work effectively across cultures with our online intercultural training tool. Organizations, individuals and trainers across the world use Country Navigator to:

  • Help their employees work better with their international counterparts
  • Improve relationships with overseas customers and suppliers
  • Enable multicultural and virtual teams
  • On-board expatriates for global assignments

Are you ready to improve your global business success? Click here to get started.

About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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