Consolidated Reality, LLC’s tagline can seem a little cryptic. But it is simple. Our culture defines our reality. It gives us our morals, ethics, and behaviors. Our culture prescribes how we react under pressure, forms our definition of right and wrong. It essentially outlines the boundaries of our perception; it is extremely difficult for us to comprehend what exists beyond that border. It is our reality, with variations based on our experiences, but our culture constrains even those variations.
Each culture is distinct enough and so encompassing that it is akin, as our friends in theoretical physics would put it, to a parallel universe or alternate reality.
When we form a team, regardless of the team’s purpose: technological, scientific, or business we often bring together individuals from multiple cultures or in practice realities. How do we achieve a common goal with so many different, often conflicting, approaches to analysis, reporting, responsibility, accountability, response to leadership, and more?
This task is difficult enough when all of the participants are from the same culture. When they are from different cultures, domestic or international, this can lead to conflict, faction forming, or one group becoming sub-servant to another. We rarely actively manage this element of our environment. Most leaders in IT, a very multicultural discipline, tend to be unaware of the extent to which this impacts the organization’s ability to deliver. Many leaders have difficulty even acknowledging or recognizing that there is something culturally misaligned within the team. Those that do frequently are not sure what to do or how to manage it.
It is important to concede that many of the studies used to help us understand this topic deal with groups. For cross-cultural differences to consistently manifest, or be recognized, it typically takes a group size upwards of 20 individuals. It should be noted that they do not have to be on the same team or at the same functional level within the team, or an organization, for culture to impact your efforts.
Below this threshold, we need to remember that individuals are still just that: Individuals. You will find various personality types in all societies. Still, to a greater or lesser degree, an individual will often exhibit some traits of their home culture. I am from Texas; I am Texan. I will forever manifest some typical Texan behaviors. It is important to remember that we can address a team or organization, but we work with individuals.
So, what do we do? We have to take these various parallel universes and from them create a new reality. A reality in which we can leverage the strengths of each culture, minimize the impact of potential points of conflict, and operate effectively.
In short: “From many cultures, one reality…”