Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Culture Limited to Humans?

photo of an orangutan mother with a baby on her back
Non-human culture?
This orangutan mother is
using a specially prepared
stick to "fish out" food from
a crevice. She learned this
skill and is now teaching it
to her child who is hanging
on her shoulder and intently

Here is an interesting perspective from Dr. Dennis O' Neill at the Behavioral sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California:
"There is a difference of opinion in the behavioral sciences about whether or not we are the only animal that creates and uses culture. The answer to this question depends on how narrow culture is defined. If it is used broadly to refer to a complex of learned behavior patterns, then it is clear that we are not alone in creating and using culture. Many other animal species teach their young what they themselves learned in order to survive. This is especially true of the chimpanzees and other relatively intelligent apes and monkeys. Wild chimpanzee mothers typically teach their children about several hundred food and medicinal plants. Their children also have to learn about the dominance hierarchy and the social rules within their communities. As males become teenagers, they acquire hunting skills from adults. Females have to learn how to nurse and care for their babies. Chimpanzees even have to learn such basic skills as how to perform sexual intercourse. This knowledge is not hardwired into their brains at birth. They are all learned patterns of behavior just as they are for humans".

There you have it! Meanwhile, check Keogh & Associates Consulting, LLC for more on culture related topics.

Definitions of Culture

One definition, used by the CARLA project at the University of Minnesota states that, for the purposes of their Intercultural Studies Project, culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. Read more here to explore other definitions of culture.

At Keogh & Associates Consulting, LLC, we define culture as the "shared values, beliefs and assumptions of a group that result in a shared, characteristic behavior"

Empires of the Mind

Winston Churchill once observed that “The empires of the future will be the empires of the mind.” I have been suggesting that we are already well into a new era in which traditional concerns over the balance of power are being supplemented by anxieties over the balance of brains.

Due to the growing knowledge-intensive and people-intensive nature of economic activity, the war for talent is heating up. As the battle for brainpower goes global, its repercussions will undoubtedly impact the balance of power between companies, workers, and governments as well as the nature of future market equilibriums. Read more on "global mindset" especially with regard to the Pacific Rim economies.

In the "empires of the future", the Culture Dividend will play a large role.

The Global Mindset as a New Managerial Paradigm

Here is a good summary of why a global mindset is important for today's manager. It is from the Babson College website and refers to the book "Managing with a Global Mindset" by Jean-Pierre Jeannet.

Managers can be categorized into different type of mandates, ranging from domestic to international, regional, and multi-domestic. Each of these mindsets represents a particular point of view and is the result of different type of experiences. For the new emerging competition in the globalizing economy, the old mindsets will not suffice and a global mind will become necessary. But first, let us look at how managerial mindsets progressed over time.

The domestic mindset is characterized by a reliance on one market as the key reference and is the mindset most managers are born with. Domestic mindsets rely on a single reference point, their domestic markets, for judgments. For successful managers, who need to act in a globalizing economy, working with a domestic mindset tends to limit the point of view.

Representing the next level up is the international mindset characterized by one or few experiences in another country. The international mindset might come with different levels of international experience, ranging from casual international exposure through travel all the way to extensive foreign stay resulting in a capacity to integrate in a foreign country or environment. The international mindset, with a limited, but in-depth exposure, is, however, not identical to the more extensive global mindset.

A manager with extensive regional experience, such as throughout Latin America, or across Europe, may possess a regional mindset. The regional mindset is of interest because it includes experiences across a score of countries. Still further up the scale is the multinational mindset typical of executives who have been on successive international assignments in different countries. Although representing the backbone of the executive pool of many of our largest multinational firms today, executives with multinational mindsets are still not necessarily possessing true global mindsets.

The global mindset is defined, for the purpose of the book, as a state of mind able to understand a business, an industry sector, or a particular market on a global basis. The executive with a global mindset has the ability to see across multiple territories and focuses on commonalities across many markets rather than emphasizing the differences among countries. Companies which find themselves engulfed by extensive global pressures will need to acquire a large pool of executives who possess a global mindset and who are able to view business opportunities from a global perspective. Part of this global mindset is an entire set of new and different analytical tools that would not be needed by the previous domestic or multinational mindset. New strategies, resulting from responding to new market opportunities, are another part of this toolkit.

This global perspective differs substantially from the more traditional single-country, or domestic, and multinational perspective so much more typical today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

McArthur's Rant

UK based Scott McArthur brings us an interesting point of view in his comment to yesterday's posting. He suggests that "we see with our brains not with our eyes". The filtering of what we see is "managed" by our brain and influenced as I described yesterday. Then Scott makes an intriguing connection with the law of attraction and the underlying principle. "If you look for something you might just find it!" Great point, thank you, Scott.

This brings to mind a case that I read about not too long ago which adds another twist; I believe that the location was Wales. A man lost his sight because of a fall. However, when this blind man was shown faces depicting strong emotions he was able to identify the correct emotion, displayed on the face, with an accuracy beyond statistical probability. The researchers suggest that even though his eyes do not transmit "pictures" to his brain - hence his blindness -, the path to his amygdala is still intact. The amygdala is a small, walnut shaped gland in the brain, that perceives emotions. The blind man is "seeing" emotions, with his brain. This relates to the topic of "emotional intelligence" which I believe is the "new" vital skill for thriving and surviving in our "global" environment. As I blog along, I'll get into the topic which, for me, is intrinsically related to having a global mindset.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Culture and "Mindset"

“Global Mindset” is something that we sometimes hear about and sometimes talk about. It seems like the concept might be interesting and relevant for our work and interpersonal connections now that we live in an environment that is becoming more “global” by the minute. “Global” has pretty obvious connotations – but what do we mean by “Mindset”?

The term has come to refer to how people and organizations develop a “filter” which helps them make sense of the world with which they interact. Without a filter, we would be overwhelmed by the amount, the diversity, the complexity and the ambiguity of the vast amount of information which we have to deal with every day. So, a “mindset” is a “cognitive filter”. How is it developed?

Our “cognitive filters” are the result of our experience, our society, our history. These filters help us organize and interpret the information that comes to us. If the information fits nicely into our filter, it reinforces our mindset. If we lived in an isolated environment, with little access to new information we would have a fairly limited mindset which, over time, could become quite “rigid” in order to protect our comfort zone. What would happen if we were to be bombarded with new novel information and experiences which did not fit comfortably into our filter – mindset?

Our mindset influences whether we accept or reject the new information! If we are not aware of our mindset and how it developed in our subconscious we run the risk of having a very rigid mindset - and of not being open to change and growth. So, I believe that our "mindset" is both a product of our culture and, at the same time, it is shaping our openness to new experiences and ways of thinking. A big first step on the road to developing a truly "global mindset" is becoming aware of our current mindset, our "cognitive filtration system"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Culture and Hell

Hell is where the Police are German,
The chefs, British,
The Mechanics, French,
The Lovers, Swiss,
And it's all organized by the Italians!

Heaven and Culture

Heaven is where the Police are British
The Chefs are Italian,
The Mechanics are German,
The Lovers are French (I'd say Irish!),
And it's all organized by the Swiss