Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Open Mind: Key to Successful Cross Cultural Communications

Without a map Columbus probably would not have "discovered" America. But a map mislead him into thinking he had discovered India. So I love maps; but I realize that they can mislead. Phantoms in the Brain, page 39- "When asked what his biological studies had taught him about God, Haldane replied- the creator if he exists must have an inordinate fondness for beetles for there are more species of beetles than any other group of living creatures. By the same token, a neurologist must conclude that God is a cartographer. He must have an inordinate fondness for maps for everywhere you look in the brain, maps abound." by V.S. Ramachandran, Professor at UC San Diego. The good thing about a brain map (unlike a physical map) is that every interaction updates our brain map. I talked about this at the recent "Successful Cross Cultural Communications" event hosted by FountainBleu in the context of understanding and overcoming stereotype biases. The human brain creates maps to classify and simplify the life around us so we can function 9-5. Stereotypes in our heads are just like maps- useful but possibly misleading. If we can accept this, we can actually enlist what we already think we know about another culture (when one thinks about ‘cross-cultural’ there’s an assumption that it’s about people from different backgrounds, but it’s much broader than that. It encompasses differences in geography, languages, generations, companies, functional areas, regions and industries) simply be prepared to update your knowledge - add to or create a new map.
And the old cliches about keeping an "open mind" or "active listening" or "suspend judgement" that leave you wondering what action to take, start making sense.

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