Dr. Paula Caligiuri, an RW3 CultureWizard business partner, contributed an article in FastCompany on avoiding the sometimes clumsy, awkward and unproductive situations you might find yourself when working in the culturally diverse situations typical of business today. Caligiuri’s focus is on honing your cultural agility:
Cultural agility is the ability to respond quickly, comfortably, and effectively in a different culture and with people from other cultures. Cultural agility is not cultural adaptability. In fact, there are times when cultural adaptation is counter-productive, when maintaining the organization’s standard or creating a new approach is critical. My research has found that the most effective culturally agile professionals toggle across these approaches, knowing when to adapt, when to override, and when to integrate diverse norms, practices, or perspectives.
Some of the tips provided are: “Question your own assumptions about cultural differences…Reward the acquisition of cultural agility–not time spent in expatriate housing…Reinforce that the acquisition of cultural agility requires more than frequent flyer miles…Lead with cultural humility.”
It’s important to have a clear set of indicators of what develops cultural agility, and how to measure it in individuals and organizations. How have you developed the ability to understand the often an invisible and often subtle force of culture? What does it take, in your opinion, to learn how to be culturally agile?
Paula Caligiuri, PhD is the author of Cultural Agility: Building a Pipeline of Successful Global Professionals and a Professor of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University.