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Cultural Awareness Training on MBA Programmes

I recently ran a series of cultural awareness training workshops at Warwick Business School on their full-time MBA programme. Several things were worthy of note during these programmes but two really stuck out:

  1. Everybody on the programme is incredibly keen and highly motivated. The delegates are all mid-career and have decided to take a sideways step in order to up-skill themselves. This is quite an astonishing financial commitment if you consider that they not only have to pay for the course and support themselves during the process, but they have also turned their back on a year or more of salary. You can, therefore, understand why they must be highly incentivised to make the most out of every step of the MBA journey.
  2. The cohort on these programmes is incredibly diverse by nationality. This year’s students apparently number about 120 and come from more than 40 countries. Even though there are multiple delegates from India, China and the UK, the overall group is incredibly diverse. I think I am right in saying that there were people in the sessions from every continent.

Cross border work, cultural awareness training at Warwick Business School MBA Programme

Of course, the fact that I had such a cosmopolitan audience was great for running cultural awareness training programmes as everybody had their own experiences to bring to the table. At one point in the sessions, I put the delegates into small groups to discuss their personal experiences of the challenges of carrying out cross border work – here is a cross-section of the issues raised in one of the four sessions:

Keith Warburton

Keith Warburton, Global Business Culture CEO

  1. Issues around timekeeping
  2. Attitudes to agendas – are they even a good idea?
  3. How much preparation should be done in advance of a meeting
  4. Who is expected or even allowed to speak in the meeting?
  5. How many people speak at the same time?
  6. Is it acceptable to interrupt in meetings?
  7. Who should take the notes – if anybody?

Unfortunately, we only had about three and a half hours to discuss these issues – and many more besides. The general agreement at the end of the sessions was that everybody needs to improve their level of cross cultural awareness with regard to the profound impact cultural differences can have when undertaking cross border work, but that awareness was not enough. People also need specific knowledge of specific country cultures. If you are working with colleagues, clients or other stakeholders in a different part of the world it is really important to find out where your similarities are in approach to key business issues and where your differences are – because the similarities are where the points of contact will be but the differences are where the key challenges are likely to be found.

Awareness combined with knowledge leads to cultural fluency and anybody working internationally needs to develop high levels of cultural awareness. Cultural awareness training can help develop the necessary levels of global dexterity needed in modern organisations.

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