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Tokyo, Japan

Cultural Intelligence - Two magic words that are vital for businesses operating in global markets

Posted 24 April 2020

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So, what is cultural intelligence? Let’s try to explain…We all know that the internet has made the world more connected and accessible. It’s incredible that even now, people are getting access to the internet for the first time, as service providers enter new markets.

Technological advances mean more choice of smartphones and other devices, at competitive prices. The result: businesses and people are more interconnected in places that just didn’t seem possible even 4 years ago. This trend isn’t going to decrease any time soon.

So, how do you navigate new markets and their cultural differences?

The simple answer is to embrace cultural differences by assigning employees and managers with a great understanding of cultural intelligence.

So, cultural intelligence is the ability to relate to and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s being able to cross boundaries and prosper in a new environment that’s different to your own. It’s something that goes beyond the knowledge of cultural sensitivity and awareness of your own culture, which you’ve learned subconsciously by living and growing up within it. By using certain skillsets and capabilities, someone with high cultural intelligence can successfully achieve their objectives and operate within a different culture.

Cultural intelligence is not a new concept. It’s been studied and implemented across different sectors and by all types of people. Because of these studies, cultural intelligence is something that can be taught and learned up to a point. But some people are innately good at acquiring this skill a lot quicker than others.

What defines cultural intelligence?

Cognition – How quickly can you adapt your mindset in a new cultural environment?

Mindful observations – Watch and learn.

Motivation – The desire to build successful relationships by embracing new cultures. Not everyone has the confidence to do this. If you’ve ever tried out your newly learned language skills by having a conversation with a native speaker, you may have found it pretty daunting. It is however greatly appreciated by the people you are speaking to.

Behaviour – Mimicry. Learn the simple stuff first such as greetings and goodbyes and please and thank you. Observe dress codes and dos and don’ts.

Why is cultural intelligence so important in business?

Cultural intelligence is evident in successful companies that employ multi-national staff. Strong company culture and identity is a competitive advantage when it is all-inclusive. The business case for promoting diversity and inclusivity has never been more compelling. Creating an inclusive organisation is the perfect platform for building high levels of cultural intelligence. With global collaboration becoming progressively instrumental to business success, companies may need to consider culturally diverse situations and work effectively within them.

In the case of international business, a cultural approach to each individual market is one of the key elements to success.

Another element is Glocalization.

Cultural intelligence

What is Glocalization?

According to Investopedia.com, Glocalization is the combination of the two words: globalization and localization. The term is used to describe a product or service that is developed and distributed globally but may be adjusted to be relevant to the user or consumer in a local market.

So how do you implement glocalization effectively?

Potentially, companies can hire local people or collaborate with local companies who are already working within the market that you are looking to enter. This isn’t always that easy.

To introduce a new product into a foreign market, having local contacts is a huge benefit and are the best people to advise on the needs and customs of the market. Well-known fast-food outlets, for example, adapt their menus to the needs of each market, with great success.

Then there’s translation. Not just a direct translation, but one that’s adapted to be understood by your target audience. Marketing’s tough enough when you do it in your own language. The odds of failure increase if you don’t use professionals to look after the language side of the marketing mix.

How do you engage with your international staff?

As a company with international staff, ALM understands the benefits of cultural intelligence in a business setting. Our company ethos embraces diversity and promotes cultural awareness within our organisation. It also makes up part of our recruitment and induction policies. We’ve found that diverse cultural mix is both rich and beneficial.

How do our language services help you connect in other markets, both linguistically and culturally?

We understand that professional language skills combined with knowledge of customs and norms of other cultures go hand-in-hand. Not everything translates well or is even relevant in some markets. Our translation team is able to advise on this.

Another thing to bear in mind is that if your translations are aimed at customers overseas, free translation tools won’t cut it if you’re looking for more than just the gist of a text. The resulting translation won’t speak to your audience in a way that encourages them to enter into a business relationship with you. If you want to make headway in a new market, it’s important to invest in one of the most powerful communication tools – language.

If you need translation services by professional human translators, who use translation-specific technology to drive down costs and maintain consistency and quality, get in touch with your requirements. We’d be delighted to discuss any project, large or small.

Contact us for more information.

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