BI Update and the Program all Australians should watch

I hope your intercultural endeavours are going well. What an interesting time in terms of working in intercultural capability development and inclusion.

JakartaThe Q&A Indonesia program from Jakarta should be essential watching for all Australians. Click here to watch – and do so by 18 July when it is removed from the ABC website. A refreshing take on Australia’s position in the world from an Indonesian perspective, the program showcases some of the most entertaining and articulate panelists we’ve seen for a long time.

If you are interested in exploring intercultural capability and inclusion, there are lots of interesting forums coming up – come along. I’ll be presenting:

SwitzerFor some insights on realities of the ‘how’ of Asia capability, here are some articles/interviews we’ve done recently which may be of interest:

Also some resources and new thinking:

I’m delighted to introduce Bojana Tomcic, who is the hub of our ever travelling team. Bojana has worked with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Belgrade for more than 10 years and brings a wealth of experience. Don’t hesitate to be in touch if we can be of support through the provision of coaching, training, facilitation or consultancy services


Balancing the Global and the Local – the ‘What’ and the ‘How’

Balancing the need for consistency of process globally with the need to adapt to and respect local culture is a common challenge in global workplaces. However, this is not as simple as an either/or proposition. Sometimes there is the expectation that ‘When in Rome’ you should do as the Romans do.

mining safety-534517_ORIGINALWhen we are managing global workforces, the ‘what’ is often non-negotiable and universal. For example, in the mining industry, safety is a non-negotiable ‘what’ or practice. Yet, ‘how’ we achieve safety needs to be adjusted to fit into the local cultural context. In some cultures, there is a belief that nothing is ‘real’ or mandated until it is put in writing from management, and key safety processes need to be documented and distributed. In other more oral cultures, nothing is considered ‘real’ or significant unless it is heard from the mouth of a trusted friend or colleague. In such cultures, safety processes need to be discussed on a regular basis among teams.

What motivates is also a highly culturally specific thing. For example, avoidance of bringing shame onto ones’ own group will motivate appropriate behavior in some cultural contexts, whereas in other cultures such as that in Australia individual responsibility is emphasized. Particularly when it comes to performance incentives and motivation, cultural differences can have a huge impact on what works and what doesn’t. To try to introduce 360 degree feedback into a hierarchical culture can be disastrous and be a disincentive rather than engendering positive feedback.

So to ensure your global workforce is achieving, don’t forget – the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. And if you’re not sure ‘how’ and to adapt to local cultural norms, ensure you get specialist advice.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias and Getting to Yes

One of the biggest challenges we face when working with diversity is the capacity to engage in dialogue with people we disagree with, without demonising the other.  As demonstrated so clearly by the impasse in the Australian parliament this week regarding the asylum seeker issue, our capacity to negotiate with, and reach agreement with people we may not agree with can be a matter of life and death.

As we learn more about neurology and perception, we know all of us are unconsciously biased in some way towards others who are ‘different’ to us.  Race, gender, sexual preference, disAbility, hair colour, political party – you name it, there is a bias towards it.  Test the theory by taking the Implicit Association Test .

There is always a risk of patronizing lecturing and ‘you should’ in conversations with ‘the other’.  Recent brain research also shows us that we look for reinforcement of our world view and discount evidence to the contrary.  Unfortunately, we are far less rational than we think.

What works to minimise bias, and assist in overcoming difference

  1. The capacity to empathise and relate on a human level, despite disagreement.  Jonothan Haidt in his new book ‘The Righteous Mind’ describes how politicians whose children are at the same school and are required to interact on a personal level are able to better distinguish between the person and their job.  Once the capacity to empathise on a one to one level is removed, politics gets nastier and less functional.
  2. The capacity to resist labeling, demonizing and judging.  To simply be able to say “I disagree with you on this” and accept that it is not necessary to demolish the other person’s credibility or attack their world-view and values is critical.  Attacking the world-view or values (regardless of the evidence base or logic) of the other person serves to reinforce their position.  When under threat, human beings reinforce their position, bunker down, look for allies and may attack in response.
  3. Taking an Appreciative Inquiry approach.  A willingness to put aside partisan perspectives and think rigorously about options often works best when we start with what we agree upon and what could be done. To focus on what doesn’t work, or what can’t be done, or critiquing other options from the beginning shuts down productive problem solving capacity.
  4. Engaging in values based negotiation – In other words, a recognition that if we collaborate together, we can make the pie bigger for all of us, rather than fighting over our half of the pie now.  Either/or win/lose negotiations are destined to be limited in results for all parties.  Values based negotiation takes a long term approach and looks for mutual benefit.
  5. Testing the validity of our approach through reversal.   Would it be appropriate if we were to be recipients of the approach we are recommending others take?  Really?  Think about their political and broader stakeholders.

Of course, for any of these strategies to be implemented or succeed, there must be: the genuine intention to address whatever issue is at hand, the self-esteem to acknowledge that we are not 100% right 100% of the time, and the interest in achieving a mutually beneficial outcome.

The latest reports on Engagement



‘The State of Employee Engagement in the Asia-Pacific’

Report by Blessingwhite


This report provides fascinating perspectives on how employees feel about their work, their employers and their managers. Data is analysed on a geographical basis making it possible for comparative analysis across countries. China was found to have the largest proportion of disengaged employees with almost 1/3 of employees “not contributing much or getting satisfaction from their jobs”. Career development was found to be the most important retention factor in China and India. In Australia however, ‘fulfilling work’ was cited as a more significant factor to drive employee retention.


Click below to access the summary report.


‘Groundbreakers: Using women to rebuild the world economy’

By Ernst & Young


Greater participation by 50% of the population means greater economic performance. Interestingly, research shows diverse groups consistently outperform homogenous groups, particularly in the area of complex problem solving. As explained by the CEO and Chairman of American Express “When people of different talents, perspectives and backgrounds are able to thrive in the workplace, when they have an equal opportunity to succeed, it’s not only individual employees who benefit. Customers benefit, shareholders benefit, and that means businesses benefit”.

To view the report.




‘The PricewaterhouseCoopers, Melbourne Institute Asialink Asian Engagement Index’


A ground breaking new piece of research has been released outlining how Australia’s engagement with Asia has changed. The PricewaterhouseCoopers Melbourne Institute Asialink Index focuses on several key components of engagement including: Investment, trade, education, tourism, migration and humanitarian Assistance. This comprehensive piece of research will leave no doubt in your mind regarding the importance of Australia’s relations with Asia. As the CEO, PricewaterhouseCoopers states “Changes in the nature and centres of power, economic activity and cultural influences will affect all Australians…The importance of Asia to Australia is increasingly clear”. The report is also an important reminder of the significance of Australia’s trading relationships with ASEAN nations and Japan, as it is so easy to be overwhelmed by the rapidity of growth in China and India.

The Latest Groundbreaking Intercultural Research – The GLOBE study


An exciting source of intercultural research is casting new light on how culture impacts on organisational effectiveness. The Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) Research Program is addressing questions such as:


  • How and why do mergers & acquisitions succeed or fail between specific cultures?
  • What style of leadership style is preferred in different cultures and why?
  • How do cultures differ in the values they publicly espouse and their actual workplace behaviours\
  • Where is democracy favoured and where is it disliked?


The study, a decade in the making, involved 170 investigators from 62 cultures and tested 27 hypotheses linking culture to organisational outcomes. Data was collated from 17,300 managers in 951 corporations and organisations. The dataset is the largest of its kind and replicates Hofstede’s landmark study and extends it in new ways.


Key dimensions of culture measured and documented include cultural attitudes toward:


  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Power distance
  • Institutional collectivism
  • In-group collectivism
  • Gender egalitarianism
  • Assertiveness
  • Future orientation
  • Performance orientation
  • Humane orientation


The research found a wide divergence of beliefs in the world regarding what constitutes good leadership and how organisational outcomes are achieved. It includes extraordinarily valuable data which provides valuable insights into how teams prefer to collaborate, how motivation and retention is addressed, and how high-performance is enabled across cultures. The study not only outlines the complexity of embarking upon joint ventures and business in emerging markets, but on the challenges of creating a coherent and efficient global organisation.


A fascinating element of the study was that it analysed both what people in each culture believe ‘should be’ as compared to what is actually practiced. In many instances the results on each scale differed widely. For example, when analysing gender egalitarianism, Australian respondents rated gender egalitarianism of high importance as what society values ‘should be’ (5.02), however when society practices ‘as is’ were measured, Australian scores were far lower at 3.40. Malaysia in contrast, rated gender egalitarianism as a less valued factor (3.78), however the ‘as is’ measure was marginally higher than Australia (at 3.51).


Uncertainty avoidance is the extent to which ambiguous situations are threatening to individuals, to which rules and order are preferred and to which uncertainty is tolerated in a society. Switzerland and Singapore topped the scale in practices which limit ambiguity in the organisational context. In contrast, Thailand and India are far lower on the scale. Interestingly, the social preference for control (what Thais perceive ‘should be’) was highest in Thailand and lowest in Switzerland.


Leadership characteristics which are universally accepted and considered effective across cultures include: team orientation, the ability to communicate vision and values and demonstration of confidence in followers. Leadership attributes which are considered effective in some countries, and not in others include: autonomous leadership and self-protective leadership: Autonomous leadership is characterised by a high degree of independence from superiors, a high degree of social distance from subordinates, aloofness and a tendency to work alone. This style of leadership was perceived to contribute to organisational effectiveness in countries of Eastern Europe (except Hungary) and Germanic Europe (except the Netherlands). In contrast, this same style of leadership was reported to be ineffective in Anglo countries, the Middle East (except Egypt) and in Latin America (except Argentina).


This research clearly highlights the danger of simply asking a host country national to ‘tell you about’ their culture as a sole source of information. In many instances the response will be what the respondent would like to believe about their own culture, rather than what is. From an organisational management perspective, this is a vital distinction. When designing or marketing products across cultures, managing employees or defining valued leadership practices, it is vital to balance the input from ‘insiders’ with statistically validated and external perspectives from specialists familiar with cultural factors.