My Favourite Poem – To an English Friend in Africa, by Ben Okri

Be grateful for the freedom to see other dreams. Bless your loneliness as much as you drank of your former companionships. All that you are experiencing now will become moods of future joys. So bless it all.

Do not think your way superior to another’s. Do not venture to judge, but see things with fresh and open eyes. Do not condemn, but praise when you can, and when you can’t, be silent.

Time now is a gift for you. A gift of freedom to think and remember and understand the ever perplexing past and to recreate yourself anew in order to transform time.

Live while you are alive. Learn the ways of silence and wisdom. Learn to act, learn a new speech. Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit. Learn to free yourself from all the things that have moulded you and which limit your secret and undiscovered road.

Remember that all things which happen to you are raw materials. Endlessly fertile. Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change your life and go on doing so forever.

Never forget to pray and be thankful for all things good or bad on the rich road; for everything is changeable so long as you live while you are alive.

Fear not, but be full of light and love. Fear not, but be alert and receptive. Fear not, but act decisively when you should. Fear not, but know when to stop. Fear not, for you are loved by me. Fear not, for death is not the real terror, but life magically is.

Be joyful in your silence, be strong in your patience. Do not try to wrestle with the universe, but be sometimes like water or air, sometimes like fire, and constant like the earth.

Live slowly, think slowly, for time is a mystery. Never forget that love requires always that you be the greatest person you are capable of being, self-regenerating and strong and gentle–your own hero and star.

Love demands the best in us. To always and in time oversome the worst and lowest in our souls. Love the world wisely.  It is love alone that is the greatest weapon and the deepest and hardest secret.

So fear not, my friend. The darkness is gentler than you think. Be grateful for the manifold, dreams of creation, and the many ways of the unnumbered peoples.

Be grateful for life as you live it. And may a wonderful light always guide you on the unfolding road.

A Final blog Post from Emilia our Intern from Finland

The last three months have passed so fast. My BI internship has come to the end.

I have learned heaps of new things during this time at BI. I am ‘interculturally trained’, since I have taken part in so many BI workshops, while documenting them. Trust me, every single one has been interesting and raised my awareness a lot.

I think one of the many great things I learned, is the SURF model:
Stop and suspend judgement
Use your observation skills
Recognize and respect difference
Find common ground.

I think this model is great when you are experiencing cultural differences: either at home or abroad.  I use the model with the different people I meet, when I am unaware of their culture, for example sometimes with Aussies.

Getting to know culture or language is interesting and exciting process.  It’s the same thing than trying to learn to surf.  I have been really unfamiliar with surfing, since I have never lived near the beach and since all the sports that I do are related to snow, not ocean and waves! No matter how hard I try, there are always the waves that I won’t catch, but I just keep on trying and trying. It’s kind of the same thing when for example going abroad or working with people from different countries: no matter how well you think you understand the cultural differences, there is always something that you can’t understand. But when you keep going and trying you always learn more.

In the first blog post I was wondering am I in the ‘panic zone’? Well, now I can tell you, I’m definitely not in the panic zone.   I have been in the learning zone for a long time and I’m fully enjoying it. I have been learning bunch of different things, that I can use the rest of my life.

It’s been great to work for this team, thanks BI team for this good opportunity. Now, I’ll start new projects; including writing my Master’s Thesis and looking for some new opportunities in the Australian job markets. My adventure in Down Under will continue and I’m excitedly waiting for the new challenges.

Remember to keep on surfing!



High Performing International Teams – The new complexity & key tips

In October, I travelled to York in the UK for a conference on ‘High Performing International Teams’.

Keynote presentations included: Fons Trompenaars discussing,  Servant Leadership and  Terry Brake exploring the key to effectiveness in Global teams.  The conference had some real highlights, including the opportunity to network with professionals from around the globe engaged in similar issues. One rather refreshing session was delivered by Carlos A Gonzalez-Carrasco on ‘Reframing Complexity in International Leadership’ ,  I was however, surprised by the ‘old school’ approach to intercultural issues by many presenters, the emphasis of many sessions still on ‘measuring’ cultures, and looking at cultures in isolation from the context and complexity of today’s globalised workplace.  The colonial connotation of the use of terminology such as ‘the Far East’ to refer to Asia also was rather odd.  ‘Far’ from where?  And ‘East’ of what?

It is sometimes very refreshing to be confronted with views you disagree with, and very helpful for defining what it is that we do actually believe, and the values and core approaches we hold true.  As a result of this experience, I have found it beneficial to define our core beliefs about the world we engage in with our clients:

We see:  Complexity, interconnectedness and interdependence, and an increasing reliance on global virtual teams operating in matrix structures.   We also see Increasing engagement with  Asia, particularly with China and India and a rapid increase in Asian investment in Western countries.

Challenges arising include:  negotiation and navigation of difference, issues o f power and systems, rapidity of change, the scale and complexity of issues to resolve, challenges of communication, collaboration and negotiation.

Opportunities include:  extraordinary opportunities to leverage difference of approach to create new, creative and exciting businesses, organisational communities and collaborative responses to the challenges of a changing globe.

A few key techniques to operating effectively:

1.     Develop an awareness of your own culture, perspectives and impact on your environment

Understand ‘where you are coming from’ in relation to people with whom you are engaging in the workplace.  You will be encountering such diversity and change, it is not always possible, to have an in-depth understanding of each and every cultural background of colleagues.  Rather, the one person who will always be present in any encounter is yourself.  To understand how your values, beliefs and cultural approaches may be different to that of others, and the potential impact of your behavior is very important.  Ultimately, you have control over your own interactions, but not necessarily those of others.

2.     Recognise pre-existing systems and leverage strengths

Local networks and systems are complex and embedded and have distinct power networks.  If you can’t, or don’t have the time to understand these, engage specialists for advice.  All communities, cultures and organisations  can have extraordinarily creative  responses to adversity and ways of guaranteeing results.  When working in new contexts, where possible, learn about and leverage local talents and don’t assume things must take longer to achieve.  With an appropriate approach, very limited resources can have viral and highly positive impact.  Quick action without understanding can damage, cost a lot and cause systemic  resistance.

3.     To understand and communicate clearly, observe, engage appropriately  and be strategic

There is a tendency to believe communication skills are all about making noise, rather than developing intuitive listening and watching skills to understand and engage with others.  Emotional intelligence, the ability to intuitively interact and to clearly communicate when necessary, and in an appropriate manner is vital when working in culturally diverse and globally connected workplaces.

4.     Manage risk through expecting and being flexible and adaptable in ‘chaos’ and building connectedness and community

Random events happen, systems and communities are ever changing, especially now due to the rapidity of globalisation.  Change is normal.  Individuals and organisations who  thrive in these environments of change will succeed.  A tolerance for ambiguity, the desire to engage with others, high level people and communication skills are key.

What’s been happening at BI

It’s been a busy time at BI, we’ve been celebrating our 10th birthday, and traveling to consult with clients in Hong Kong, China and Indonesia as well as delivering training programs to participants around Australia in government and corporate sectors.  Ramona has been particularly busy with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Tamerlaine with PriceWaterhouse Coopers and AMP Capital. Tom has been delivering programs in Melbourne, Sydney and Shanghai and Uppinder in Sydney.  Tamerlaine has also completed a ‘Women on Boards’ course.  Our report on ‘Twinning’ (International partnerships for capacity building) was officially endorsed by APEC in Peru.

Interesting reading

Intercultural thought starters and resources

The great joy of our work is ‘topping up’ our intercultural knowledge and experience. Cultural immersion is always the most powerful learning experience, however the world of books, film and audio also provide valuable insights. There are also some wonderful on-line resources and subscription opportunities.

The Economist ‘Gulliver’ Business Traveller Blog

This blog provides a great summary of some of the issues at the forefront of the business travellers mind. In today’s blog, topics include distance communication tips, insights into business in Dubai, the black(crack)berry addiction problem and strings on the cost of air travel in the future.

photo: renjith krishnan

Staying Connected and on the Move – Tools of the Trade


How to stay connected and travel between locations with the minimum of

hassle is an essential aspect of working globally. Reliable email and phone

access and the ability to access the files you need when you need them are

just the beginning.


APEC Business Travel Card

As well as access to fast track diplomatic/APEC or air crew channels at selected airports, the APEC card allows accredited business people to obtain multiple short-term business visitor entry to participating economies of: Australia, Brunei, Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, People’s Republic of China, The Philippines, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam. Be warned, the application process can take months, but is well worth it.


Access and security of data on the road

Being connected to a physical office space where all files are stored is becoming less of an issue for many global workers. We use a citrix system which means that all of our computers are empty and our software and

desktop and files are ‘located’ on the internet and a remote server. The biggest challenge is remembering the 3 layers of passwords to get in. From a data security and risk management perspective, we suggest that traveling with all of your key files in a thumb drive is a high risk approach and best avoided. Thumb drives are simply too easy to lose.


The Essential Travel Connectivity Kit

Our travel kit includes: PDA with global roaming enabled, a laptop with wi-fi capability, connecting cable, USB hub, universal adaptor, cable for USB to mini USB, thumb drive for file transfers, wi-fi card (check for network coverage and global roaming capabilities before you sign up). We also recommend a Skype account for phone calls and or vision to home and family while on the road.


Happy travels!


Photo: Maple

Good morning Vietnam

Law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques has an established Community program recognised as a best practice benchmark in Corporate Social Responsibility.

The program reflects the firm’s culture, with community involvement seen as part of the professional responsibility of Mallesons’ people.  Additionally, the program is seen to create an enriched working experience for its employees through the provision of opportunities that are beyond the commercial business environment.

With this in mind, the firm has established a number of partnerships with specific objectives of helping to alleviate poverty, improving community welfare and helping children and young people at risk.

Mallesons has a deep and longstanding relationship with CARE Australia.  A recent Cycling Challenge through Vietnam (organised by Intrepid) was an ideal opportunity for a team from the firm to visit a CARE Australia project supported by Mallesons’ Workplace Giving Program.

The project, Clean Water for Schools, is building toilets and hand-washing facilities at 37 schools in the Mekong Delta and provides health and sanitation education (through drawing competitions and games) so that children stay healthy. Such education is crucial, as poor hygiene practices, contaminated water and bad sanitation are the cause of almost half the deaths and diseases among Vietnam’s youngest children.

Mallesons’ Chairman Frank Zipfinger led a group of staff, family and friends on a two week journey though Vietnam’s highlands to the Mekong.

“Seeing the CARE-supported school and meeting some of the children we have been helping was definitely the highlight of the journey,” he said. “The cycling trip was a perfect way for our staff to become involved with CARE Australia through much more than simply a financial commitment. I think we now better appreciate the issues that people in the developing world face every day.”

More information on Mallesons’ Community program.

More information on the Intrepid Charity Challenge.

More information on the work of Care Australia.