There is a very common misconception that all countries in the world work in the same way as we do, and we are often surprised when we encounter an approach that is unusual within our own culture. In Denmark, for instance, it is quite normal for babies to be taken outside in their stroller for a nap outside on cold winter afternoons, albeit wrapped up warm, except for when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius. This would be unthinkable in some cultures, while in others it might at the very least be considered crazy. It is often difficult to recognise just how much our daily lives are conditioned by the society in which we are born and raised. The habits that make our culture unique, and therefore different from others, only become apparent when we meet people from other countries.
The business world is no exception, as it is also affected by significant cultural differences that sometimes divide entire teams and make it harder to work together effectively. This is nothing new, and leaders have always had to recognise and understand human nature and different personalities, in order to create a successful team. Today, however, things are even more complicated, because market globalisation has created the need to explore and communicate with cultures that are very different from our own, and which we do not always immediately understand. The first step in breaking down these subtle barriers is to make them visible to everyone, by creating a map of the main cultural differences.
Before proceeding, it is important to acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages involved in managing a multicultural team. If our objective is to generate innovation, or to increase the creative side of our business, then a well-managed multicultural team is our best asset. If, on the other hand, our aim is to improve the speed and efficiency of our business, then a culturally similar group is our best option.