Developing Cultural Understanding

IESE Professor demystifies the challenges of managing cultural differences

19/09/2008

Cultural differences could play a major role in determining the success of international business managers, according to IESE Prof. Yih-teen Lee, who recently spoke with us about the book La compétence culturelle. S'équiper pour les défis du management international (Cultural Competence: Preparing for the Challenges of International Management), featuring contributions from 18 professors from business schools and universities around the world.

Lee, one of the book's editors, argues that while business people are usually willing and able to adjust to cultural differences on the surface level, for instance when greeting a client or exchanging business cards, business interaction or collaborations often involve something much deeper than surface level knowledge.

Prof. Lee also analyzes the role of Confucianism in how people conduct business. Using this philosophy, he looks at the idea of individual social roles and obligations, which determines and defines the interaction that takes place between leaders and workers and influences how people establish connections between business partners and companies.

"People tend to trust people in a circle they call the "in group", they tend to allocate more resources to them and important positions, whereas people who do not belong to the inner circle are considered suspicious," he says.

Finally, Lee illustrates how to get things right when entering different cultural contexts in the international business world. To do this, both high-level managers and employees need to develop a deeper cultural understanding through reading, training, preparing and being sensitive to cultural differences.

In this video, Prof. Lee demystifies the challenges of managing cultural differences and presents solutions to overcoming cultural barriers in the international market.

More information at IESE Insight