10% to 50% of expats return early from their assignments


85% of Companies using offshore providers say MISCOMMUNICATION is there biggest problem!


49% of Companies using offshore providers experience MISSED DEADLINES and HAVING TO REDO WORK!


Doctor’s ignorance of cultural dimensions puts patient at risk!

A Four Step Approach to Prevent Cultural Misunderstanding

Step One

“Know that you don’t know”

Assume difference until similarity is proven rather than assuming similarity until difference is proven.

Step Two

Emphasize DESCRIPTION by observing what is actually said and done. DO NOT interpret or evaluate.

(Describing a situation is the most accurate way to gather information about it. Interpretation and evaluation, unlike description, are based more on the observer’s own culture and background than on the observed situation.) See Ladders of Inference for more insight into this cross-cultural challenge.

Step Three

Attempt to see the situation through the eyes of the other person. Ask yourself “What would have to be true for this behavior to make sense?”. Knowing the cultural characteristics of your culture and the other persons culture (the cultural differences), will enable you to answer this question.

Step Four

Treat the explanation you have developed in Step Three as a hypothesis and verify it with your colleagues both home and abroad, and if possible with the other person.

The four steps are a paraphrasing of an approach suggested by Nancy Adler.


Making It Work!

An additional step is needed to take advantage of the first four. Once behaviors are properly understood, work with the other person to establish common goals and acceptable approaches and behaviors.

Negotiating: When to Dominate -- When to Accommodate

Using Japan as an example, one client saved more than 50% on a major contract by finding vendors who understood the US approach to negotiation. For another contract the same approach was a disaster!!

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How To Prevent Cultural Misunderstanding

Most cross-cultural problems occur because individuals don't see all that is happening, misinterpret what they do see, and apply improper values to their interpretation. Using the following four step process can avoid these problems.

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Myths Concerning Culture and Business

These cultural myths can cost you money.

1. We may dress differently and eat different foods but when it comes to business there is only one 'right' way to do things.

2. The internet and TV are causing cultural differences to disappear.

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