Cultural SynergyCultural synergy is a term coined from work by Nancy Adler of McGill University, which describes an attempt to bring two or more cultures together to form an organization or environment that is based on combined strengths, concepts and skills. The differences in the world’s people are used in such a way that encourages mutual growth by cooperation. (Nancy J. Adler, 1980)Apply Effective Cross-Cultural Strategies to develop Cultural Synergy Adler’s Cultural Strategies to Achieve Synergy (Nancy J. Adler, 1980) Step 1: Describe (Recognise) the Situation… without interpretation or judgement; from every cultural perspective). Step 2: Interpret the Perspectives (Recognise& Respect): determine underlying cultural assumptions; assess cultural similarities& differences. Step 3: Increase Cultural Creativity (Reconcile)… to create several synergistic alternatives that would create win-win situations, taking into account everyone’s preferences; select one alternative; & implement it. Step 4: Evaluate the Chosen Solution & Refine as Needed (Root): look at chosen solutions continually to see if they are the best choice; refine as and when needed. (Nancy J. Adler, 1980)An Example of Cross-Cultural Synergy(Case Study from; Adler, N., International Dimensions of Organizational Behaviour) (Nancy Adler , 2003)Step 1: Let’s describe (Recognise) the Situation— Objectively A doctor at a major American hospital expressed concern that a Filipino nurse was improperly using a particular machine to treat a patient. He instructed the nurse on the proper procedure and asked if she understood. She said that she did. Two hours later, the patient’s condition had deteriorated because the nurse had continued to administer the treatment improperly. The doctor sharply questioned the nurse, and she again affirmed her understanding of the procedure. What went wrong—and why? And what needs to be done to solve the issue?Step 2: Identify & Interpret (Recognise & Respect) the Cultural Issues from all angles The doctor understood that many Filipinos would not contradict people in respected positions. To the Filipino nurse, the doctor’s status was clearly higher than her’s. He was older; she was younger. He was a doctor; she was a nurse. He was a man; she was a woman. He comes from a low power, individualist, task-oriented culture; she from a high power-distance, collectivist and relationship oriented culture. The nurse, based on her cultural assumption, she could not tell the doctor that she did not understand without implying that he had not given her clear or good instructions. If she had done so, he would have lost face (and so would she—for not understanding). The doctor, based on his cultural assumptions, expected “open communication”; he expected the nurse to say whether she understood his instructions and to ask questions if she did not. He considered it a sign of incompetence to assume responsibility for a patient’s care without fully understanding the manner of treatment.Step 3: Evaluating the Problem & Finding a Culturally Synergistic Solution (Reconciling) After analysing the situation, the hospital administrator suggested the following solution: When giving his initial instructions, the doctor should ask the nurse to describe the procedure that she would follow. As the doctor listened, he could assess the accuracy of the nurse’s understanding and identify areas that needed further explanation. In this way, the nurse, because she was not asked directly, would not be forced to say “no” to a superior. The hospital administrator solved the problem and at the same time respected the needs of both individuals. At the same time, the hospital achieved its goal—of delivering excellent medical service.Individual Intercultural Rules IT starts with…YOU: Know you own personal values and preferences, ways of working, organising and communicating, and you will be better able to objectively understand and appreciate others! RULE 1: Be impeccable with your word.Be clear and objective in what you say, not hurtful in any way; say only what you have to say—objectively without insinuations, suggestions, and assumptions. (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) Rule 2: Don’t take it PersonallyMost individuals see situations, behaviours, people, etc., only from their own perspective—NOT from someone else’s—and often these are culturally induced. If you can do so, you are fantastic! (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) Rule 3: Don’t make AssumptionsYou—and they—are only acting according to what each of you consider polite and correct behaviour. We make assumptions based on our cultural biases, which we learn from an early age. (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) Rule 4: Do your Best Every DayEiffel Tower (or any other wonder, for that matter) was NOT achieved in a day! (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) “Success consists of a series of little daily efforts.” (Mamie Mccullough) Rule 5: The “Platinum” Intercultural Rule – Treat others as THEY would like to be treatedThis is easier said than done, sometimes one may have to do things outside one’s own comfort zone or against one’s own cultural preferences—which may be very uncomfortable for you! “Always remain open to different and new perspectives… Because each intercultural journey consists in “having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust). See everything from all possible angles—put yourselves in the others’ shoes. And, finally yet importantly, even when it’s tough, don’t give up! Atleast keep making an effort to do it, if not to achieve it at once.
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