As the world of business becomes more global, our world is becoming smaller. Previously, only big businesses were able to do deals on an international level. Now, even small businesses with an Internet connection can ship products, offer services and communicate with people all around the world. With this access comes a real risk of a business sending the wrong signals while trying to interact with another culture. Culture Crossing: Discover the Key to Making Successful Connections in the New Global Era was written to help businesses decrease this risk.
What is Culture Crossing About?
Culture Crossing is not a typical book about cultural communication. It has some pointers on how to interact with people from different cultures, but it is not a list of cultural do’s and don’ts. It is about decreasing the unintentional mistakes and errors that we make because of our own cultural programming. Because we are not aware of how deeply embedded our cultural worldview is, we make the mistake of missing key signals that lead to better cross-cultural communication.
Culture Crossing makes the point that cultural intelligence is more than learning the “rules” of a culture, which can be obtained from any travel book. Making a successful connection with a culture involves three simple steps which can be summarized as follows:
- Awake: become aware of your own cultural programming,
- Assess: take a pause to open your mind and assess the situation,
- Adjust: adjust your response in light of your assessment.
That’s it. Not some complicated or fancy rules or secrets. Just three steps.
The problem is business owners don’t take the time to take these three simple steps. They either generalize (thinking that a person fits a cultural stereotype) or ignore (consciously or unconsciously miss the signals from the environment around them during a cultural exchange). Fixing these problems is the primary focus of Culture Crossing and the book does this by pointing out how the most commonly held beliefs probably aren’t universal. When business owners begin to realize the point that culture isn’t simply a set of rules, they can begin to learn to read the code of a culture. By learning the code, they can start on the path to a deeper understanding of their fellow human beings — including customers.
Author Michael Landers is the founder and principal of Culture Crossing, Inc., a company that provides consulting, training and public speaking events for business leaders who need help in developing or improving their cross-cultural communication. Landers has a background that includes spending a lot of his childhood in Latin America after leaving his native America. Fluent in four languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese), he used his international experience, academic training in International Studies and work in 30+ countries to get established as an expert on cross-culture communication.
What Was Best About Culture Crossing?
As discussed in the summary of the book, Culture Crossing is not your typical “cultural communication” book. It doesn’t focus on a fixed set of rules a person needs to learn before interacting with a new culture. While Landers doesn’t deny that knowing the basic rules of cultural etiquette is helpful, he focuses on a more dynamic learning approach. He wants readers to take in the environment and understand the nuances of intercultural communication. This proactive form of learning can be extremely helpful for any person with a business who wants to develop a sustained relationship with another culture.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
While Culture Crossing is definitely a book to consider for learning how to assess and interpret someone else’s culture (or subculture), it doesn’t provide a lot of discussion about how to rebound from cultural mistakes. For business owners, this can be very important because mistakes will happen, no matter how engaged you are in assessing someone’s culture. The advertisers from the “Got milk?” campaign learned this the hard way when they translated their message into Spanish (The ad, in Spanish, asked (“Are you lactating?”).
Why Read Culture Crossing?
Culture Crossing should appeal to a wider audience than just business leaders because all of us will experience some form of cross-cultural communication in our work (and probably personal) lives. The book’s emphasis on the seemingly intuitive 3-step process of becoming aware, opening your mind and adapting is something that needs to be discussed more often. This insight can improve efforts in diversity and cross-cultural training. It can also help the nervous (or overly confident) business owner who comes into regular contact with people from a different culture. Landers does an incredible job of showing how culture does more than determine your actions and beliefs. It literally changes you think. Because of that, you have to pay attention to the conscious and unconscious ways that you sabotage your efforts at cultural communication.