In today’s globalized business environment, record numbers of people work abroad, manage international teams and projects, interface with international partners and serve international customers. It’s more important than ever before to have effective tools for understanding and working effectively with international contacts.
Cultural frameworks are one of these tools. They give us a way to compare and understand cultural tendencies. But there is a problem with the way the frameworks are usually used. Most associate countries with specific tendencies—India is X, China is Y, and so on. Country characterizations help people predict what they’ll experience in a country or international contact—but only to a very limited extent. It’s easy to understand this problem if you think of your home country. Do people there all have the same characteristics? A country profile would suggest that they do. Although cultural trainers and consultants agree that the country profiles are overgeneralizations, until recently, they were all they had to work with.
I was frustrated by these limitations in my work in consulting and executive education. If your contact’s behavior is counter to the profiles of their country, what do you do? And the profiles can’t predict the attitudes of an ethnically Korean Brazilian or an Indian who was educated in the US. I wanted to give businesspeople a way to identify the cultural characteristics of any international contact, whether or not they fit their country’s profile. The cultural analysis approach and the Analyze, Recognize, Capitalize (ARC) System™ are my solution.
Many frameworks and websites help you identify your own cultural tendencies by answering a series of questions, provide a model of your target country for comparison, and point out problems you may have there based on your own profile. The ARC System™ starts with self-analysis too. But rather than refer you to a country model that may not describe the region, industry, company, or personal characteristics of your precise contacts, it guides you in identifying your contacts’ unique tendencies based on their behavior. Comparing your profiles helps you identify potential confusion and conflict—no matter where you, or they, come from.
My clients said they wanted ways to identify and solve culture-based problems for themselves, instead of relying on trainers and consultants who might not know their industry or business model. The ARC System™ offers guidelines for specific business goals for each cultural tendency. It offers recommendations for negotiating with, selling to, hiring, job-seeking, managing, and partnering with each of the cultural types in the framework. And rather than treat intercultural diversity as a problem, the system identifies potential “cultural synergies” that help intercultural partnerships outperform single-culture collaborations.
My book, The Culture Solution, is a guide to mastering the ARC System™. I hope it helps you achieve your business goals, whatever they may be.
By Deirdre Mendez