As the World Cup kicks off the summer, it also brings out patriotism across the globe. After all, victory at the international level defines the competitiveness of a national sports team. The same rule applies to organizations. In an increasingly globalized business environment, a company’s capacity for global expansion and its performance in local markets define its competitive advantage.
Speaking of entrance into a foreign country, cultural immersion is always the top concern. As an international professional who has spent five years in the U.S., I learned from personal experience what it takes to overcome the cultural barriers.
Growing up in the most globalized city in China where English was taught at the earliest age across the nation, I did not anticipate much challenge living abroad. After all, if I had been a big fan of McDonald’s growing up, had been up-to-date with American TV shows, songs and movies, and most importantly, had proved my ‘language skills’ through the toughest language test in my world – TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), what obstacles should I expect?
With that naïve mindset, my first reality shock occurred right after boarding my first international flight, when I could barely understand the safety instructions in English and realized I would be doomed in case of emergency. The anxiety continued after I landed, when I was starved at the airport because I could hardly make myself understood or understand the cashier at McDonald’s (which is also why I still feel proud now every time I order at McDonald’s). To date, I can still remember my first summer class, where I had problem following any group discussions. What about my impeccable TOEFL score? If only my classmates talked like the recorded conversations in TOEFL tests. Besides language barriers, it turned out that the TV shows, songs, and movies imported into China were tailored to the interests of the local audience, whereas there were tons of American culture icons I was unaware of. Life in the U.S. was nothing like I expected.
Now that I have overcome the initial frustrations and have managed to live a life and start a career abroad, the number one lesson I learned is that when it comes to cultural immersion, it is wiser to learn than unlearn. Coming into a new culture with pre-existing biases always costs additional time and efforts because we need to un-bias the false impressions before getting to know the truth. To me, there are still a lot of things I do not know about American culture. But once I learned not to view my overseas experience through colored lenses, I started to appreciate the novelties and challenges I encountered each and every day.
Likewise, the key to an organization’s sustainable global presence is true cultural awareness through humble learning. Having a history of partnership with global distributors in over 56 countries, Hogan demonstrates true cultural awareness by adopting a learner’s mindset. Not only do we build trusting relationships with local distributors who are familiar with our assessment tools and experienced with the local business environment, but also we invite translators who are fluent in English and the target language, have a psychological background (e.g., experience working with personality characteristics and measurement), and are well acquainted with both American culture and the target culture to translate our assessments and reports based on both literal meanings and cultural adaptations. Most importantly, Hogan develops global and local norms and regularly updates those based on industry standards to ensure accurate interpretation of our assessment results in each cultural context. Through these evidence-based solutions, we are able to learn the cultural nuances and be mindful of those differences when working with international or multi-national clients.
With the emergence of a borderless economic world, organizations face the new challenge of going global or going home. Those that are willing to invest in continuous learning will be better prepared to truly understand the local market and win the global competition.