All posts in “open minds”

What’s Your Default?

 

Did you ever wonder why some people seem to attract friends, business opportunities and seem to exude confidence even in unfamiliar situations? What’s their secret to success? Well, part of it has to do with their “default” or Cultural Intelligence. In the past we use to measure someone’s IQ and use it as a predictor of success in everything from educational achievements to financial success or notoriety in their field of choice. But, as David Livermore recently stated in his BBC interview this month, “The number one predictor of your success in today’s borderless world is not your IQ, not your resume, and not even your expertise”.  Cultural Intelligence it seems can give you an edge over anyone’s IQ, and quite frankly opens doors and windows to places you couldn’t image without it. Did you ever here the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know”? Well, that’s a bit like cultural intelligence. You can’t benefit from someone’s perspective if you can’t see it.

“Having the right knowledge, drive and openness towards other perspectives, an aversion to the trap of “group think” all contribute to creating an environment where everyone is valued, and new ideas and innovation is encouraged”, says Nasif Kayed, founder and CEO of The Arab Culturalist.

So, What’s Your Default?

Many people believe that simply respecting other points of view and cultures = Cultural Intelligence. But it takes more than respect to feel confident in multi-cultural environments, and even more to be able to see other perspectives as equal or for that matter better. Knowledge is key, second only to what you do with the knowledge. Do you use it to modify your behavior, or do you use it as a measure differences and barriers to connecting?

For instance, when encountering something new or different is your default to:

  • Be suspicious or curious
  • Be critical or suspend judgement
  • Contrast or compare
  • Ignore or find out more

By asking yourself some basic questions, you can begin your journey to improve your Cultural Intelligence and inter-cultural communication skills.  In our borderless world, cultural understand and awareness benefits you just as much as it connects people, encourages diversity and inclusion, and leads to innovation.  What’s your default?

The Arab Culturalist has developed a one of a kind workshop, which will be held on November 22nd in Abu Dhabi and December 6th in Dubai,  which is just the beginning of your journey to build you cultural intelligence.  Register Our programs  span a period of 25 years, teaching and advising businesses, government entities, community groups, law enforcement and students, in the US and Middle East on how they can create working and living environments that are inclusive and promote successful collaboration across cultures. Contact us to find out more at info@thearabculturalist.com

Unexpected Consequences: How Should We Learn about Cultural Differences?

I recently met a group of university students traveling to the Middle East for a “study program” whose aim was to educate them about local culture and better prepare them for global positions.  They visited the most popular cultural sites and centers which including a trek into the desert and an authentic local experience.  I wasn’t surprised when I started to listen to some of their comments about what they thought they had learned and some of the questions that remained unanswered.  As a Cultural Intelligence professional, it didn’t take long to figure out that through the learning process the students didn’t become more culturally aware.  Instead their experiences had reinforced stereotypes about local cultural habits and norms, the outer and most visible aspects of culture one would find through “exposure” to these experiences without the proper guided discussion that should go along with it. Attitude matters too, but what’s more important is figuring out why they failed to build their Cultural Intelligence, and why these experiences left them with having more stereotypes than busted myths.

A recent study by Emma Buchtel (2014) posed the question: “Does learning about cultures improve cultural sensitivity, or does it strengthen cultural stereotyping?” Does it promote an “US vs Them” thinking that legitimizes stereotyping and supports prejudices? Butchel argues that with the wrong set of circumstances, attitudes and empty learning, what is meant to build cultural understanding and unity accomplishes just the opposite. True cultural learning is not as simple as trying local foods and learning about cultural dress and celebrations. This can be a great backdrop, but it’s not where the deep learning happens.  It requires a 360 approach to understanding culture with a conscious focus on the why not the how of things.

I have personally spoken to more than 20,000 students over a 6-year period, teaching and supporting learning about culture.  The anecdotal evidence I gained from that experience supports the theory that not every cultural experience succeeds in accomplishing the goal of cultural understanding. Some negative outcomes could be attributed to student attitudes throughout the experience.  But I observed that much of failures, not the successes had to do with the delivery of the information in a vacuum.  What I mean by this is when learning about local food or dress for example, the information is presented as a list of items consumed or worn without engaging the participant in critical thinking.

If we truly want to go beyond the surface, then we need to evaluate how we go about our cultural learning and invest in programs and experiences that succeed in accomplishing a true awareness and appreciation for our diversity as well as uniting us through the similarities that exist among all of us.  As Nasif Kayed, Founder and CEO of the Arab Culturalist says, “who were we before all of this (motioning with his hands)? We were all tribes and nations, exploring the vast expanses of the world, sharing ideas and learning about one another.”  Cultural habits did not grow without purpose, so we must learn about them through the deeper values that created them.  In discovering those values, we find the similarities that unite us. That’s when cultural exploration succeeds in teaching us to be culturally intelligent and better equip to navigate in a multi-cultural environment.

The Arab Culturalist has developed a one of a kind workshop, which will be held on October 25th, 1300,  which is just the beginning of your journey to build you cultural intelligence.  Register Our programs  span a period of 25 years, teaching and advising businesses, government entities, community groups, law enforcement and students, in the US and Middle East on how they can create working and living environments that are inclusive and promote successful collaboration across cultures. Contact us to find out more at info@thearabculturalist.com

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