A recent IBM study ‘Leading Through Connections’ identified that the conventional way of working isn’t enough to compete in todays globally competitive environment; and that we need to respond to this new connected era. Organisations need to be more connected with their partners, customers and employees. In addition to this, I posit that culture, time zones and distance further add to the complexities of achieving greater connectivity.
“To innovate, we need to take in insights accumulated across various industries and knowledge generated by many different people.” Kenichiro Yamanishi, President and CEO, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
“To increase innovation, we will need to transform our organizational culture to be more open and dynamic.” Jing Xirui, CEO, Beijing-Fanuc Mechatronics
“Fundamentally, the only competitive advantage one has is client knowledge.” Thomas Kalaris, CEO, Barclays, Wealth and Investment Management.
“You can copy products, but you cannot copy customer relationships!” Hartmut Jenner, CEO, Alfred Karcher
These are some of the comments that CEO’s contributed to this study. While it is reassuring to hear that these CEO’s recognize and acknowledge that they need to establish relationships with their customers, understand what their markets truly want, create open cultures within their organisations and leverage on the skills and knowledge of all employees, cultural training is an essential ingredient to achieving these objectives across multiple geographic locations. The cultural complexities and challenges that can impede the success of these objectives are often subtle and command leaders and their organisations to realize that overall values, appropriate levels of openness, the importance and processes of establishing relationships, what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior etc are not universal. They are cultural specific and as such require learning and unlearning.
The leaders in this study strive for improved connectivity to provide improved innovation, collaboration, openness, communication, flexibility, engagement, talent development and creativity. Yet organisations can only achieve this to their full potential with a keen sense cultural intelligence. A key challenge that organisations face is identifying their current level of cultural competency which include the cultural knowledge, skills, motivators and strategies required to work effectively across cultures.
As we know culture by its very nature is subjective and laden with different perceptions, meanings and interpretations. Managing, leading and selling across cultures demands adjustment, alignment and fine-tuning of strategies to fit the distinct, unique characteristics that are appropriate to each culture and market.