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January 1, 2010

Corporate culture and Ethnic culture: How are they connected?

From ethnic culture, to self-culture, to corporate culture.

Actually, it’s a dangerous endeavor to try and forge a hard link between corporate culture and ethnic culture. One saying is, "The blueprint of every corporate culture is based on the ethnic culture in which it originated." We believe that a link is definitely there, but it is important to keep in mind that it is a very tricky link.

Creating your Corporate Culture with Ethnic Culture in Mind

With 250 million expatriates in the world (a number that growing above 10% annually), and with over a billion employees engaging inter-culturally across the globe, the ethnic culture in which organizations originate becomes increasingly blurred.

In an organization owned by someone from one country, managed by someone from another country, with a staff of 20 people from 10 countries, how do you define the ethnic culture in which it originated? How do you build a corporate culture that takes into account the cultures people bring with them when they join the organization?

In these situations, we have not found it helpful to use a snapshot of the average Chinese person, the average French person, or the average German. We needed something new.

Self-Culture, not Ethnic Culture

Our answer to this question, born out over the last 8 years, is a paradigm-shift from an ethnic-cultural perspective to a self-cultural perspective. In the 3 Colors of Worldview and 12 Dimensions of Culture, we created structured dialogue frameworks to help people assess their personal culture, and then think through the possibilities for their corporate culture.

Through this framework, management can look at the cultural make-up of the organization based on the staff self-culture reports, and start to formulate a corporate culture that will work best for everyone involved.

Utilize collective organizational culture development

What typically happens when an organization decides to focus on their corporate culture is that the dialogue is carried out by the senior management. We often proceed as if we were able to look into the minds of all our employees and say, "here is the acceptable behavior for our organization, and here is what you need to stick to." In today’s world, that can be a dangerous gamble, because employees are increasingly vocal, smart, and connected.

To counteract this, you can deploy a method where every employee has the opportunity to be involved in defining what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable. You can learn more about this in our article, 'Vision, Mission, Values: What about behavior?', but the short version is that through discussion with people at multiple levels in the organization, you can define what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable, and then create a ‘behavioral charter’ on which to base the core of a corporate culture.

Learn a vocabulary with which to challenge your assumptions

Most organizations don’t have the vocabulary and concepts to facilitate the collective organizational culture discussion. The discussion will bring up questions like these:

"Do you believe that consensus based leadership is better than hierarchical leadership?"

"Do you believe that public discussion of problems with a "transparent, direct communication style" is a better way to solve problems than a quiet, indirect communication style that uses several one-on-meetings?"

"Do you want your performance measured as an individual on every single touchpoint, and every single target, or are you focused on team success and want to be held collectively accountable for targets?"

"When it comes to a conflict, how do you resolve a conflict? Do you call a team meeting and say, "hey guys, we have a problem,” or do you tune out when people do that?"

At the core of all these issues is a lack of language in terms of cultural preference. So what we do in corporate culture development is first expose people to the 12 Dimensions, and 3 colors of worldview. Then, all of a sudden, the discussions about leadership, teaming, conflict, transparency, integrity, and so on become deeper, richer, less emotional, and more structured.

From Ethnic Culture, to Self-Culture, to Corporate Culture

Viewing your corporate culture through the lens of ethnic culture alone can’t prepare your company culture for global competition. The stakeholders most likely don’t have the language to even explain their own preferences – much less set effective policy. Self-cultural analysis creates the vocabulary and framework to explore all the avenues that ethnic culture is supposed to address, while also preparing your stakeholders for effective change management.

Through it, you can analyze just how much your corporate culture is based on the blueprint of the self-culture of your founding stakeholders, and decide how you need to adapt that culture to the realities of your current, globalized organization. And then, because of that identification process, you have laid the groundwork for affecting the behavior of your people on the ground.

To begin your culture learning journey, Contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.

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Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2015 00:29

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