Commerce has historically been a force for cultural cross-pollination. From Marco Polo’s tales of the Chinese court to the CocaColanisation of the world by American exporters, the flow of trade has promoted cultural insight and understanding between the people of the world.
Today business is more international than ever before, with not only goods but business processes and IT systems effortlessly crossing national and continental borders.
But the globalisation seen in the past two decades has been so rapid and on such a scale that the concomitant cultural familiarisation has been unable to keep pace. While technological developments have overcome the geographical distances between workers on different sides of the planet, in many cases the cultural distance is still pronounced.
And that has a genuine impact on performance. Not only is a lot of communication lost if the subtleties of intonation and reference in speech are not understood, it is also nigh-on impossible to manage individuals without understanding their attitudes towards work, towards each other and towards their managers.
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