The expert panel chaired by Hakan Harman, CEO Multicultural NSW
Did you know one in five Australians speak a language other than English at home? And yet so much of our advertising and marketing is not reaching this $190 billion market. Inclusion is core business, and getting it right makes a difference to employee engagement, performance and the bottom line.
Last night I attended the Australian Multicultural Awards at the Sydney Opera House. It’s been wonderful, as an adviser to Multicultural NSW, to see the evolution of this event, and great to see the business case so clearly articulated. I think Geraldine Chin Moody from Virgin Australia summed it up so succinctly:
“Success is when we don’t talk about diversity any more and we talk about inclusion. It shouldn’t matter who you are – it’s what you have to contribute”
As Geraldine emphasised, inclusion is so important for effectively accessing, managing and leveraging diversity. Virgin took an
With Huss Mustafa and Malini Raj, Multicultural Community Banking at Commonwealth Bank
internal employee-driven approach to their diversity campaign. The good news is, Virgin are reflecting this principle in their advertising. What a great campaign ‘Together we fly’.
As we highlight in our successful, global, Inclusive Leadership program, inclusion takes effort, focus and a commitment from leaders. Get in touch if you’d like to enable a more inclusive culture in your organisation.
It’s good to shine a light on what’s really happening – to frame an issue and make it explicit. But when we have the numbers, and we know they need to be better, what do we do? There is no ‘silver bullet’, no ‘magic wand’. As Rebecca Lim from Westpac so succinctly said “it’s not easy, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting started”. Change is a process. It doesn’t happen in one step. So, we’ve got the awareness, there’s some desire, it’s now time to build capability.
The next stage of the conversation needs to address: what works; what’s challenging; and how do we do this well? Without supporting capability, there’s the risk such reports will result in racial stereotyping and reinforcement of bias. Let’s focus on how inclusion works, how leaders can engage more effectively within and across cultures, and how they can support a high-performance culture where everyone contributes their best.
Find out more about our Inclusive Leadership Program. We have delivered the program in well over 15 countries, and it’s making a difference.
Wouldn’t you love to have the resources of Google? At Google, they decided they wanted to understand what defines the perfect team, so brought together their best statisticians, organisational psychologists, sociologists, engineers and researchers to form ‘Project Aristotle’. After three years of research, of reviewing a half-century of academic studies looking at how teams worked, scrutinising the behaviour and performance of 180 teams, their first discovery was that patterns were hard to find.
The research team found that some high performing teams socialised with each other, others didn’t. Some diverse teams were high performing, others weren’t. As a manager in Google’s People Analytics division said ‘‘At Google, we’re good at finding patterns… there weren’t strong patterns here.’’ After almost giving up, they finally found what makes the difference.
What differentiates high performing teams is the existence of trust.
When looking at how to best explore and understand trust, the most effective contextual framework was ‘psychological safety’, a concept Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson defines as ‘‘a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking’’ and ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.’’ There’s no point in having great talent within your team if people don’t contribute fully. Good decisions are made when people share their perspectives, challenge one another and develop a more well-rounded solution.
Think about your experience of diversity at work and diverse teams. To what extent do people feel safe and trust one another? Common barriers to full participation include a fear of causing offence, of not understanding another person, or of making sense when speaking a second language. Key behaviours that create psychological safety are those of engaging with each other at a human level. To get to know your team members as people, rather than only through their title or functional role can make a difference. Other key communication skills such as active listening and demonstrating empathy are also critical. Sounds simple, right? As with so many of the skills of effectiveness in global contexts, it’s not what you do, it’s how that makes the difference.
For more details of the project and it’s findings click here.
‘Indonesia, etc.: Exploring the improbable nation’ by Elizabeth Pisani.
Pisani was a correspondent in Indonesia in the late 1980’s, returned a decade later as a medical researcher, and for a third time in 2011 to spend a year travelling the country. In her words “to look through the eyes of enough people in enough places…to piece the fragments together in to a portrait of the nation as a whole, to understand better the threads that tied the glorious disparity together”. To achieve this goal, Pisani committed to follow only one rule, to ‘Just say yes’. ‘Yes’ to invitations to tea with the Sultan, to sleep under a tree with a family of nomads, to join a wedding procession, etc.. And, as she says “because Indonesians are the among the most hospitable people on earth, this made for a lot of yesses…”. The result is a slice of Indonesia, the complex mix of islands, languages and ethnicities that makes up this improbable entity.
The book is written in a very engaging style, with fun and fascinating stories to keep things light while exploring themes of politics, change, globalisation and culture. Pisani’s humour, humility and genuine respect for the many cultures of Indonesia, and her fondness for the people she meets shines through in every chapter. I’d put it on top of my list. But don’t just take my word for it, the Wall St Journal cite it as one of their ten best books of the year, The Economist also chose it as one of the nine best books on politics and current affairs.
‘From Vienna to Yogyakarta: the life of Herb Feith’ by Jemma Purdey
What a fascinating man, and what a full life. Herb Feith has been a significant contributor to the Australia – Indonesia relationship. Herb’s family were WWII Austrian Jewish migrants to Australia, and the experience of his family contributed to his ongoing commitment to human rights and peace building. Herb first studied Bahasa Indonesia as a student in Melbourne in the early 1950’s and through a lifetime of academic work and commitment became one of Australia’s leading academics in the field of Asian studies and political science.
Herb worked tirelessly to further people-to-people relationships between Australia and Indonesia. He was the first Australian Volunteer to Indonesia, and a founding member of Australian Volunteers International, also being called upon to advise on the establishment of the Peace Corps in the United States.
The unsung hero in Herb’s life who really shines in the book is his wife Betty. The book is a fascinating look at the evolution and ebbs and flows of Indonesian studies in Australia. At 576 pages long it is lengthy, however an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the Australia-Indonesia relationship.
‘Wrong about Japan’ by Peter Carey
This is by no means a new publication, published in 2004, however a recent discovery on my behalf. Carey travels to Japan with his teenage son, Charley to explore the worlds of anime and manga. He meets leading filmmakers and experts in Japan, and attempts to delve into the deeper motivations and themes within the genre. Carey also writes of the connection his son, an avid fan of manga has with a Japanese friend Takashi.
Carey, due to his fame, was able to access many of the leading players in the realm of anime and manga. Unfortunately he simply didn’t have the cultural, linguistic or interpersonal capabilities to make the most of these opportunities, in one interview explaining
“Mr Kitakubo responded to my written questions in the same style as every other damn Japanese I’d questioned. That is, he made it clear that nothing in this country was as I thought it was My misunderstandings were very interesting, he said.” ( p112)
Having travelled in Japan with my daughters recently, and visited Studio Ghibli which is featured, little of the magic was conveyed in this book. His exploration of his son’s connections and understanding of the genre and teenage friendship with Takashi are more insightful.
While it is one of Carey’s lesser-known and lighter works, this piece of writing provides a classic insight into the blunders, miscommunication, confusion and lack of understanding of Westerners in Japan.
I hope your intercultural endeavours are going well. What an interesting time in terms of working in intercultural capability development and inclusion.
The Q&A Indonesia program from Jakarta should be essential watching for all Australians. A refreshing take on Australia’s position in the world from an Indonesian perspective, the program showcases some of the most entertaining and articulate panelists we’ve seen for a long time.
If you are interested in exploring intercultural capability and inclusion, there are lots of interesting forums coming up – come along. I’ll be presenting:
Masterclass on ‘Cultural Intelligence’ at the Asia Education Foundation Inaugural National Conference
Co-presentation with a client of a Case Study on offshoring to Malaysia at the International HR Directors Forum (Members only – part of CEO Forum Group)
Keynote breakfast panel: Rise of Asia – rethinking business models to capitalise on emerging opportunities facilitated by Kerry O’Brien at the CPA Congress Sydney
For some insights on realities of the ‘how’ of Asia capability, here are some articles/interviews we’ve done recently which may be of interest:
‘Does culturecall the shots’ Business Today on ABC TV with Whitney Fitzsimmons
Government News: Cultural smarts essential for public sector success in Asian Century
What a week! As National President of the Australia Thailand Business Council, I was involved in many of the events regarding the visit of HE Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. It all kicked off with a media interview with ABC and progressed to lunch at Parliament House. Julia Gillard was hosting, it was great to see two women leaders for a change, and equally great to see so many friends in the Australia-Thailand relationship in one place.
Next stop was Canberra airport – nearly didn’t make it back to co-host the dinner with Jennie Lang from the Asia Society. Our plane had a broken propeller and we were all disembarked. A highly surreal moment on the tarmac, calling the Thai delegation to see if we could get a ride on the PM’s plane, only to discover we wouldn’t make it, and chatting to the US Ambassador and other business and government reps about plan B. Fortunately Qantas came through and the next flight was ok, a dear client provided an express lift straight to the hotel and made it with 5 mins to spare.
The dinner was a whirlwind, HE Yingluck is a dynamo, and was keen to meet lots of representatives of the Thai -Australia Business relationship. The PM was accompanied by 70 leading Thai business people and four senior ministers, and it was a delight to meet so many strong advocates of collaboration.
On Tuesday, I was MC for the BOI ‘Unbeatable Thailand Seminar’ with the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the Thailand Board of Investment and some great speakers from business and the National Economic and Social Development Board. Some fabulous case studies on the restructuring of Australian businesses to make the most of the ‘Asian Century’ and better position themselves to thrive in the changing economic context. The study of the Australian Business experience in Thailand presented by John Andersen, President of AustCham Thailand was also striking for its positive outlook.
Thailand invests nearly $5 bn in Australia and we invest only $1.9 billion in reverse. Thailand and Australia have two of the more resilient economies in the world, and it makes sense to further develop opportunities in a Southeast Asian region destined for significant future growth. The economic turmoil and declining markets of the past day heighten the importance of focusing on our own region and the opportunities provided there. I am looking forward to hosting a Boardroom lunch tomorrow with Asialink in Melbourne at Baker & Mackenzie to hear from Australian Ambassador James Wise regarding his insights and reflections on the visit.
It’s so important that we are constantly challenging ourselves in this space that we work. The BI team are voracious readers and listeners and we frequently share favourites. The conversations that ensue are always vibrant and we often disagree, and that’s the more interesting part! So here’s what we’ve been into lately:
We find Monocle Magazine fun and ridiculous in equal measure. We love the focus on international affairs, politics and travel. The articles about the best interior design of private fleet aircraft are a little out of our league in terms of potential benefit. That said, magazines are escapism, right? So, onto the private jet and off to have a chat to Kim Jong-Un about his basketball fetish and lavish collection of Nike trainers…
The Social Animal, David Brooks
This book was our BI Christmas gift. A controversial one as some of us loved it, and some of us hated it. I liked the book for the perspective it provides regarding how people from diverse backgrounds often have insights others don’t have access to, and how important it is that we can tap into their perspectives. It also explores power and how easy it is to surround yourself with people ‘like me’ and how dangerous this insulation is in terms of understanding the complex and diverse realities of the societies we live in. That said, the method the book uses to explore these themes has a few drawbacks. Here’s where we get to the hatred part – Brooks uses two fictitious characters as the narrative thread throughout the book. These characters in the book are titled ‘Julia’ and ‘Rob’. Among our BI team members, Emma, Tom, (and Tom’s wife for that matter) found Brook’s characters immensely irritating. Emma said she preferred watching Brooks on TED. I saw him on TED and preferred his book! Ramona on the other hand loved the storytelling style, saying she enjoyed how Brooks’ focused on the impact of early lessons and experiences influencing the people we become was fascinating. We’d love to know what you thought if you read it?!
The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar
Ramona gave me this book for Christmas and it is great. I prefer Iyengar when she delves into the depths of intercultural perception and attitudes toward choice, but much of her market share in the ‘business space’ I am sure is due to the value of her insights on consumer behaviour. Iyengar is the source of the famous jam study – you remember the one where they tested purchasing behaviour when people had the option to taste and buy more than 30 flavours or just six? Her results were so powerful, we see groupings of six or less in most consumer contexts to enable us to get our heads around the cognitive challenges of choice leading to action. Iyengar has a compelling personal story. She is the child of Indian Sikh migrants to the USA, and blind – a lifestory which causes her to reflect deeply on the cultural attitudes of her family and the navigation of choice in life. Well worth reading.
The Lady and the Peacock: The life of Aung San Suu Kyi, by Peter Popham
I loved this book. What’s not to love? A gripping story of an amazing woman, a very current and topical issue, and a focus on something we are all looking to learn more about. These types of biographies have the potential to be a bit dry with endless historical recitations, but Peter Popham manages to tell the story of the person and her journey and keeps us interested at every turn. Myanmar is rapidly changing and the removal of sanctions and ‘opening’ is creating a gold rush mentality in the business space. At the Australia Thailand Business Council we’ve now appointed a ‘Regional Collaboration: Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia’ Committee Chair to keep us focused on this and the implications. Christa Avery presented on the changes last week at our strategic business dialogue. Christa lived in Myanmar in the 1990’s during the last ‘opening’ – we hope this round will be more long lasting.
Radio/Podcasting – Start the Week on BBC
Emma Kettle recommended this programme and what a discovery. Start the week is hosted by Andrew Marr and features an extraordinary diversity of guests. The episode last week on the science of creativity with neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer; author Joanna Kavenna; musician and sound artist Scanner; and chemist Rachel O’Reilly was one of Emma’s favourites. I really liked the episodes on National Identity and China. The ‘Australian culture’ episode with Thomas Kenneally, Deborah Cheetham and Kate Grenville was a highlight for me. It’s always refreshing and suprising to learn about your own culture as perceived by others.
Watch this space – Our Business Book
I attended a Sydney Writers Centre workshop last week on ‘How to write a business book’. Hopefully a BI book will eventuate. Valerie Khoo, the presenter was very honest and I am back to the drawing board! Watch this space…
The last three months have passed so fast. My BI internship has come to the end. I have learned heaps of new things during this time at BI. I am ‘interculturally trained’, since I have taken part in so many BI workshops, while documenting them. Trust me, every single one has been interesting and raised my awareness a lot.
I think one of the many great things I learned, is the SURF model:
–Stop and suspend judgement
–Use your observation skills
–Recognize and respect difference
–Find common ground.
I think this model is great when you are experiencing cultural differences: either at home or abroad. I use the model with the different people I meet, when I am unaware of their culture, for example sometimes with Aussies.
Getting to know culture or language is interesting and exciting process. It’s the same thing than trying to learn to surf. I have been really unfamiliar with surfing, since I have never lived near the beach and since all the sports that I do are related to snow, not ocean and waves! No matter how hard I try, there are always the waves that I won’t catch, but I just keep on trying and trying. It’s kind of the same thing when for example going abroad or working with people from different countries: no matter how well you think you understand the cultural differences, there is always something that you can’t understand. But when you keep going and trying you always learn more.
In the first blog post I was wondering am I in the ‘panic zone’? Well, now I can tell you, I’m definitely not in the panic zone. I have been in the learning zone for a long time and I’m fully enjoying it. I have been learning bunch of different things, that I can use the rest of my life.
It’s been great to work for this team, thanks BI team for this good opportunity. Now, I’ll start new projects; including writing my Master’s Thesis and looking for some new opportunities in the Australian job markets. My adventure in Down Under will continue and I’m excitedly waiting for the new challenges.
My name is Emilia and I’m first ever BI intern. I’m finishing my Masters in Communication in the University of Jyvaskyla, which is in Finland where I come from.
It’s been exciting time for me; I have been in Australia only for few weeks. I started my first workday by watching the whales while waiting for the bus on Monday morning. That was a great start of the week and an amazing start for my internship at Beasley Intercultural in Sydney.
I had an idea that in Australia the working culture is relaxed and so far my smooth start at Beasley has been proving that. I spent the first days reading and going through what BI team has done recently, the same time my task was to update the BI Blog.
After working on the Blog I have been analyzing and resuming some of the Intercultural Essentials -training feedback. I went through feedback that about 1000 participants had written. It was interesting to read what the clients had thought about the training. Some of them said that their awareness of cultural issues grew and that now they are thinking out of the box. I’m impatiently waiting to grow awareness of Australian culture, while working at BI! 🙂
At the same time, I have been reading Hofstede’s book Cultures and Organizations – Software of the Mind. Since I have been interested in intercultural communication while doing my Masters degree, I was already familiar with the cultural dimensions. Although by reading more of Hofstede’s work each of the dimensions got so much deeper and I could understand much more why we humans are so different.
The most interesting day so far has been Monday last week. It was my first chance to go to see one of the workshops that Tamerlaine is facilitating. I was supposed to take notes in the training, but since it was so interesting, I spent my time just listening, learning and enjoying. Also it was interesting to watch the participants and their reactions to the activities that we did. Overall, the training was fascinating and it was nice to know how the trainings are facilitated.
Monday’s workshop we learnt about Comfort-, Learning- and Panic Zones. Afterwards, I have been thinking about the Zones and I’ve been wondering am I in a Learning Zone or in a Panic Zone right now? I mean definitely I’m learning new stuff in every minute that I spend here, but sometimes I feel a hint of panic because I’m Down Under! 🙂
The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, Richard McGregor
This book should be compulsory reading for anyone engaging in business or government relations with China. The Communist Party matters, it has influence and it is not going away. Contrary to the expectations of many, the rise of capitalism in China has not led to the demise of the Party. The book provides great insights into how the Party, due to its command and control structures was able to act far more decisively than Western powers during the GFC and drive the reforms necessary to ensure economic stability.
Michael Wesley, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute is currently completing a book on the rise of the Chinese multinational Huawei. The story of Huawei is an interesting one to explore in conjunction with Macgregor’s book. Huawei is ranked the fifth most innovative company in the world by Fast Company, now Ranks No.2 in global market share of radio access equipment, and is recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the world’ s most influential companies. I visited Huawei when I was in Shanghai last year and was awed by the scale of its growth and the speed at which it was becoming the lead provider of wireless and telco network infrastructure in the world. One to watch…
Global Citizens by Mark Gerzon
Mark Gerzon, the author of this book has significant practical intercultural experience: as a Mediator at the World Economic Forum; Distinguished Fellow at the East West Institute; leading the Global Partners team at the Rockefeller Foundation; and working with the UN Leadership Academy. His book provides a simple summary of what he believes it takes to become a truly ‘Global Citizen’. I liked the book, particularly Gerzon’s four step process required to develop Global Citizens: 1. Witnessing: opening our eyes, 2. Learning: opening our minds, 3. Connecting: creating relationships and 4. Geo-partnering: working together. His justification of the need for Global skills is compelling, stating “Our so-called leaders, especially, often view global issues through the lens of their national education and make decisions today based on yesterday’s realities. In an unstable, dynamic, globalising world, this can be disastrous”.
Gerzon does however neglect to address some of the realities of power imbalances, and their implications for the dynamics of change and relationships among minority and majority groups. Acknowledging the nature of who has power, access to capital and the capacity to leverage influence, is an important element of the conversation surrounding globalisation.
Gerzon’s list of “20 Ways to raise our Global Intelligence” at the end of his book is a great summary of simple actions we can all commit to, both personally and within our organisations.
Talking to the Enemy: Faith, brotherhood and the (un)making of Terrorists by Scott Atran
This book, and Atran’s work is of great interest for anyone working in international negotiations, counter-terrorism, and multicultural policy. Atran, an anthropologist by training has spent a significant amount of time in Palestine and Israel, and interviewing the families of the Bali bombers and 9/11 terrorists. His key point in this book is “People don’t kill and die for a cause. They kill and die for each other” . Atran explores the importance of ‘sacred values’ and attempts to define why terrorists commit their lives. Atran challenges some of the focus of current counter-terrorism and provides a valuable historical perspective. Interestingly, the ‘logic’ of the market place does not work in these spaces, and is counter-intuitive – the provision of financial incentives being a disincentive in contexts where sacred values are at risk. Here’s a vodcast of Scott Atran presenting at the RSA in London on his book and ideas.