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8 questions to ask before you invest in cultural awareness training resources: Great decision making
If you’re not a cultural awareness expert you either need hundreds of hours of research or a lucky guess to identify the best cultural awareness training resources.
You might expect this article to be extremely short – after all, we believe that Country Navigator is the best and only cultural awareness training resource you’ll ever need.
But we can do better than that.
We’re so confident that you won’t need to look past our unique cultural intelligence and inclusion platform, that we’re going to give you a list of questions that you should ask us and any other resource you’re considering. Score us against these criteria, and we’re confident that not only will you make a much better choice, but that your organization will be in a much better place to develop cultural intelligence and inclusive behaviors, attitudes, and skills.
8 questions to ask before you invest in cultural awareness training resources:
1. What is the research basis behind the cultural content?
Clearly, we don’t want learners to have to wade through stodgy theory and research papers. However, to be effective, cultural awareness training resources must be grounded in more than just the insights and ideas of one or two people.
We must ensure that the learning is based on solid research, that is validated and current. Edward Hall may be the founding father of intercultural communication, but he wrote his groundbreaking book, The Silent Language, in the 1950’s – the world, and cultural theory, has moved on since then.
Prof G. Hofstede was the first person to measure cultural difference in a quantitative way – but contemporary research methodology has problematized some of his findings.
Any many resources don’t bother with theory at all – relying on insights, stereotypes and guesswork to construct elaborate models and principles that can’t withstand the test of real business conditions.
And while we’re talking about theory…
Beware the learning theory buzzwords that are fashionable but mean little.
Bite-sized, micro-learning, neuroscience, 70-20-10 are interesting ideas, but the learning psychology behind them is, at best, not proven and at worst fanciful. I’m not saying that learning MUST be 3.5 hours of reading – often a short video or article is great, but let’s base it on science, not on hunches. And there are very few cultural learning experts who really understand the intricacies of brain science. In fact, most neurologists would hesitate to be as dogmatic as some learning neuroscience proponents are.
Watch out for that most awful of learning lies – the myth of learning styles. It keeps cropping up, but the theory has been thoroughly refuted. No such thing. Fake news. Not true.
2. What will learners do differently after they consume learning?
Learning must lead to behavioral change. Awareness training is a great start – and one of the pillars of cultural intelligence. But if it doesn’t give learners practical, hands-on ways to do things differently, then it’s a time filler, but not much more.
Probe how the resource enables learning and knowledge transfer. Does it provoke self-reflection and action?
Organizations need learning that empowers employees; learning that isn’t seen as a distraction from work, but something that enables work. Ask to see evidence of that learning transfer.
3. Can learners evaluate and develop skills based on individual, team, organizational and national cultural differences?
We are getting more familiar with the ability to create a cultural profile – and WorldPrism is one of the most rigorous and research-intensive cultural profiles available. But it is what you do with it that gives it the real value – other than as a decoration.
Comparing your profile to a country culture is a great place to start for a big picture overview. But life is rarely that simple – there are no monocultural teams. Is there an easy way to look at a team cultural profile and debrief that in a tailored way that treats culture not as a problem to be managed, but a competitive advantage to be leveraged?
Or comparing your profile with other colleagues at an individual level. Do you need to influence a key stakeholder? Can you check out their profile before the meeting? Will the system give you tailored suggestions on how to influence them more effectively based on your comparative positions in each of the cultural dimensions?
Some features have only decorative functions, so when you’re evaluating a cultural awareness training resource, deep dive into the profiling tool and make sure that it uses the data it’s processing as effectively as possible.
4. Does the cultural awareness training resource reflect the realities of the challenges your organization faces?
We know from adult learning theory, that we learn when learning solves the problems we encounter. Adults don’t cope well with abstract learning or learning that misrepresents reality.
Does the learning use scenarios that are drawn from real situations, or are they abstract and difficult to engage with? Can learners relate to the learning and can they draw inferences for their own work.
The scenarios and situations don’t necessarily need to spoon feed answers, but if they’re designed well the learner has confidence that any proposed solutions will be effective.
5. Does the resource spoon feed learners, or treat them as adults?
Learning that gives people the opportunity to discover solutions for themselves is not only better learning, but it is more interesting, more exciting, and more engaging. If I deduce the answer myself, then I’ve earned the solution. It’s my solution and I can enjoy the success much more than if someone tells me I’m doing it wrong and shows me how to do it a different way.
That’s why coaching is so effective. And while we’re at it – make sure that the digital learning has an option for live coaching as well. No digital content can foresee every situation, and if we’re going to learn to interact with human beings, sometimes we need a human being’s input.
6. How is AI used?
This is a trick question! Using AI doesn’t mean the learning is great; but not using AI doesn’t mean the cultural awareness training resource has eliminated gimmicks either!
AI is fashionable and we should be healthily skeptical about its use. We know that AI has inherent biases and that it’s a technology in its infancy, so unless using helps learners learn better or retain learning better, it may just be a gimmick.
7. Is the cultural awareness training resource cheap?
Low cost is not the same as cost effective.
You can have something quick and cheap, quick and good, good and cheap. But you can’t have something that is quick, cheap, and good!
There are a lot of cheap or even free cultural awareness training resources available online – and some of them can add value. However, this is definitely a case of ‘you get what you pay for.’
Effective cross-cultural consultancy is based on many years of personal experience, research, and insight. Most importantly, it must come from a diversity of cultural perspectives and incorporate knowledge and understanding of how the world generally, and business specifically, operates.
8. Does the provider practice what they preach?
At Country Navigator, every single one of our staff is passionate about cultural intelligence (CQ) and inclusion. You can ask any employee, from the CEO down to the newest recruit – and they will articulate to you why CQ is important to them as an individual. They will demonstrate CQ in their conversations, behavior, and attitudes. We regularly compare WorldPrism cultural profiles and refer to them in conversations.
Just as importantly, we invest in building culturally intelligent relationships with clients, learners, partners, and each other. Cultural intelligence isn’t just a product – it’s in our blood.
When you invest in a cultural awareness training resource, try, and gauge the depth of passion – not just in the salesperson, but in the finance team, the IT integration team, the client support team – anyone you meet.
Great decision making
We are too busy and too pressured to waste time on sub-standard advice, suggestions and content. We can’t afford the impact of bad cultural advice. If you’ve become aware of the need for cultural awareness training resources, make sure you invest in the best available.
You’re bound to have your own criteria you use to evaluate any content – and the procurement team won’t have written all of them. But these eight questions are a great way to ensure that you are giving your organization the best chance of developing cultural intelligence.
We’ve got over three decades of experience supporting over 1 million people worldwide. We’re passionate about delivering change; how can we help you?