Below you will find the skeleton outline of a course on Cultural Diversity devised in the mid-1990s and used with success for over fifteen years. It had just become a hot topic as globalisation forced companies to understand other cultures, create new alliances, devise new corporate structures and culture, and also understand much better the nature of other markets.
Each course was designed ad hoc for the customer and modified according to specific industrial sectors and company requirements. The time spans varied from a Business School module of 30 hours to intensive four-day residential workshops, one-day sessions on specific topics or countries, lectures on ethics in a multi-cultural setting, and sessons on corporate culture in muti-national companies.
Successful courses were run for Telecom Italia, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Canterbury Business School (University of Kent), the Italian Naval Staff College, the Italian Institute of Maritime Warfare, Bocconi University, the Club of Five in Denmark, Henley Management College and Northwestern University.
In the academic context, focus was on lectures + case studies + break-out groups for exercises. There were also assigned readings in seminal books on the topic, as well as articles from sources such as the Harvard Business Review. Case studies written specifically for these course included some on Pirelli, Deutsche Bank, Worldcom and a hypothetical airline.
In the business context, there was greater emphasis on practical exercises and industry-specific workshops. Those courses were often run together with a German sociologist who specialised in corporate training.
CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS
This course is designed to enhance awareness of problems in international business deriving from cultural conflict. The momentum of globalization often focuses on financial and market considerations, while cultural issues are overlooked. Examples range from problems which have caused announced mergers to fail, to adjustment of business objectives in new marketss.
Practical issues include:
- how employees can be assigned to international roles;
- an understanding of the kind of problems that may emerge in negotiating alliances;
- an understanding of the issues involved in people working together;
- an understanding of the impact of different cultures within a national setting;
- enhancement of the internationalization of the companies;
- the creation of personal relationships so that employees operate better in an international environment;
- the selection of joint-venture partners;
Case studies will be used to illustrate the real-life problems: these include now classic cases of difficulty in international mergers such as Volvo/Renault, Daimler/Chrysler and the failed telecommunications alliances of the 1990s.
1. Accepting Cultural Diversity
This session will begin with some case studies in which apparently unimportant issues have had unexpected consequences in international mergers and joint-ventures, beginning with a study of German joint ventures in Brazil which showed how in the long-term as many as 80% failed for reasons of cultural diversity.
2. Ethics in a Cross-cultural Situation
This session considers the way in which conflicting ethical systems and deep ethical beliefs impact on business relationships, from the obvious problems of western companies in Islamic countries or China to less obvious but equally damaging cases within Europe.
3. Trust in a Cross-cultural Situation
This session deals with the problem of creating trust in a new cultural situation, starting from a celebrated study in which trust was found to be involved in five of the seven most cited reasons for joint-venture failure.
4. The Hidden Dangers of Language
This session examines the often overlooked issues of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and the ways in which deep linguistic structures influence reasoning processes.
5. Prejudice and Stereotypes and their Impact
This session shows how important it is to understand the deep cultural causes of prejudice and the historical basis of our perceptions of others. Managerial perceptions of laziness and incompetence, for example, must be recognized and corrected.
6. Negotiating in the International Environment
This session provides examines the different negotiating techniques of the world’s main business cultures, and provides practical hints for negotiating in an international cross-cultural situation.
7. The Presentation of Self
This session examines the ways in which a manager can understand how to project himself in a cross-cultural situation, learning to “play the role” through an understanding of such apparently soft issues as ritual, formalities and dress codes.
8. Problems in Everyday Working Life
This session deals with the practical issues of working together, and the creation of multi-cultural teams which really function.