Last Blog Entry : Cultural Intelligence

We have covered the major components of organizational behavior this semester. We took a look on the individual, the collective and the organizational factors that have an impact on the human behavior in an organizational context. At the beginning of the semester, we talked about diversity and individual differences in a professional environment and more precisely, we talked about cultural intelligence. As an exchange student, I have been confronted to cultural issues throughout the last couple of months. The cultural intelligence, CQ, is then of great interest to me since it is easily applicable to my current situation, and today’s paper is going to focus on that topic.

First, let’s review what cultural intelligence is. The CQ reflect the ability of an individual to adapt his behavior effectively across different cultures. There are a lot of CQ profiles. For some, this capability is innate, as they are less attached to their original culture, and for others, training must be done to develop and improve certain aspects of CQ. Individuals with a high CQ are generally able to analyze and recognize patterns or consistencies of the modified landscape they are interacting with in order to anticipate behaviors and making their own behavior consistent with these cultural characteristics. Usually, these individuals are also able to suspend their judgement when issues occurs in order to clearly identify the differentiation between their home culture characteristics and their new environment characteristics.

Cultural intelligence can be divided into three main components. The first dimension is defined as the head, and include the cognitive and metacognitive aspect of CQ. This is about the knowledge an individual has on other cultures, and on the learning strategies established to acquire it. It is also to be aware of the signification of these tacit knowledge in the context of a different culture. The second dimension is called the body, and refer to physical and behavioral aspect of CQ. It is the capability to behave according to the customs and gestures of people around. In other words, it involve the ability to receive and mirror the cultural characteristics and is associated to task performance. The last dimension is the heart of CQ, and is associated with motivation. For someone to adapt to another culture requires confidence and perseverance. It is about overcoming obstacles to perform in a new professional context.

Let’s apply this framework to the very specific case of expatriate workers, as seen in one of the final presentation. Studies done on expatriates have shown that the cultural intelligence of expatriates influences their performance at work. The CQ is considered as an important predictor of cultural effectiveness and of performance in international assignments. These findings are very important to firms in terms of human resources management, and might have implications on the investments in employee’s cultural intelligence training. On the individual level, having a high CQ is starting to be essential in a context of globalized economy.

For the last part of the paper, I would like to apply this framework to my experience here in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, even if it is not necessarily related to a professional environment. First, let’s throw a glance at the academic example. I had knowledge about the academic differences between here and home. For instance, participation in class and outside the class is more valorized in Singapore. The preparation before classes is also very different. We don’t have any kind of tutorials at home. I had the knowledge before coming, but I still had to persevere to adapt to these new methods and attain considerable results. The heart was there. To do so, I had to embody the system. Another example, more applicable to Southeast Asia in general, is the communication differences. Indeed, in the first days, it was possible to analyze some typical gesture and accent in people’s way of communication. After a while, I sometime use the same sentences patterns for instances and sometime use the same intonation, without mimic the person. These examples might seem very basic, but still represent the main idea behind cultural intelligence.

 

Sources: Harvard Business Review, International Journal of Business and Management, Massey University, Forbes.

Reflection on Resilience

Resilience is a topic that was recently brought up in class and today’s paper will focus on this matter, as disruptions seem to be an actual issue within modern societies and organizations. A lot of recent examples can be raised, such as the subprime crisis in 2008, Japan’s nuclear accident or even the typhoon that devastated the Philippines a few months ago. This trend will carry on in the future, as the pace of change in the world seems to have overcome the pace of learning. Let’s first try to define and analyze the definition of resilience.

Resilience is a concept that can be applied to different dimensions of organizations and therefore, there are several definitions in literature. Resilience is also studied in fields like engineering for instance. Indeed, resilience can be seen as the “ability to anticipate a perturbation, to resist it by adapting and to recover by restoring the pre-perturbation state as much as possible”, according to Asad Madni, a renowned electrical engineer. This definition of resilience is then applied to the organization as a system. According to a study by the Montreal Polytechnic, resilience is seen as the ability to “maintain or restore an acceptable level of functioning despite perturbations or failures”, and the 1998 Quebec snowstorm is brought up as an example. In the case of the Quebec snowstorm, which left over 4 million people without electricity for a period of time ranging from few days up to 5 weeks, the government started to get interested in implementing a culture of resilience within organizations. It is possible here to see a close link between the productivity and performance of an organization and its ability to bounce back after a crisis. Resilience allows organizations to be more flexible and to be more prepared to eventual failures.

 

Sans titre

How can an organization develop a more resilient identity? We saw in class the importance of establishing identity anchors along with social capital. Indeed, strong communication leads to better support in periods of crisis. Andrew Zolli, co-author of the book “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back”, vouched for a strong commitment to cognitive diversity in order to promote resilience in corporations. Indeed, organizations that are composed of individuals with different backgrounds tend to be significantly better in evaluating the risks of possible disruptions. On the individual level, which touches more the organizational behavior field, an employee that has had many past experiences has seen things from different perspectives and is therefore much more agile in crisis situations. Zolli also argued that the maximization of the efficiency may not be ideal as there exists a strong correlation between efficiency and fragility. A person working to its maximum level is more likely to suffer from a burnout for example and a machine running full capacity is also more prone to breakdowns. However, implementing this maximum efficiency target may sound very counterintuitive in organizations, which are more than ever confronted to a competitive environment. Obviously, working under the maximum efficiency level for an individual or an organization is less risky, and may represent an interesting trade-off for some managers. It could also take the form of reward activities, or team-bonding activities for instance, so that employees feel they are doing other things than just working. Finally, some experts have suggested certain forms of educational programs to implement resilience within their organizational culture. These programs could include but would not be limited to stress management training programs, mentoring and observation sessions, etc.

We saw that resilience is strongly correlated to qualities such as optimism, creativity and flexibility, making it a valuable characteristic sought in candidates. Some experts see resilience more as personality trait, but we have seen that measures can be put in place to encourage a culture of resilience, considered as psychological immunity in an organization. Resilience is also associated to others qualities such as the knowledge of the environment, the ability to prepare and the ability to use proper resources at the proper time. There was an interesting talk by Eddie Obeng, a British professor, entitled “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”. Failure, while it may have a negative social connotation, also has its share of benefits in a certain way. It allows people to grow up as making smart mistakes can lead to improvement. What exactly is meant by smart mistake? Doing something new that did not end up working. However, isn’t that the key to innovation?

Sources: Harvard Business Review, TED, Polytechnique Montréal, Forbes, La Presse.

Effects of money on behavior

We touched in class one interesting question which happens to be the center of a lot of experts’ studies: Why do people go to work? Answering this question requires a deep understanding of motivation and of its’ dimensions (intensity of the effort, its’ direction and its’ persistence). There are many theories on motivation, such as needs theories (referring to Maslow’s hierarchy), goal-setting theories and reinforcement theories, all of which were discussed in Robbins.

In today’s work environment, performance seems to be nourished by monetary motivation. Indeed, managers think money makes the workforce malleable, and that people can handle any type of tasks as long as they are paid for it. Money is by far the favorite reward of organizations towards their employees, with compensation plans like end-year bonuses for example. This is particularly true in the financial services industry or in the sales environment.

Then, a question emerges: What is the effect of money on people and how is it applied into organizations? We saw in Devoe “When does money make money more important?” that the higher the income of a person is, the more centralized money is in this person’s perception afterwards. This causes a desire of always wanting more and never being satiated. However, let’s focus more on the effect of money on social interactions within organizations.

The link at the end of the text refers to a talk titled “Does money make you mean?” by social psychologist Paul Piff. He was interested in how social hierarchy and differences between people’s wealth distorted individual behaviors. His experiments were revealing. He first noticed, through a rigged Monopoly game where one player was randomly privileged over the other, that wealthier people tend to adopt selfish, cocky, rude and unpleasant attitude toward the other player. When Mr. Piff derives this experiment into today’s society context, he observed that self-interest is predominant to people at the top of hierarchy.  Furthermore, Paul Piff observed that rich people tend to be less willing to help someone in need. This goes along with the conclusion of Devoe.

If we apply this study into the more specific context of organizations, it is possible to notice the same type of inequality as seen in society and this is caused by the money motivation programs present in today’s corporation models. Inequality is itself a big issue for organizations, but as we just mentioned, it can get even worse if it negatively affects relationships between individuals in a group in a direct way. I think those kind of programs are not adapted to today’s knowledge economy if I refer to Daniel Ariely’s talk on happiness at the workplace. In a context where social management is as important as technical management, money is no more a motivation than can be applied to a whole organization. Only a few members of the group will continue to be motivated, reinforcing even more the gap between workforce groups. As Ariely said, and I totally agree, money rewards efficiency, which refers to Adam Smith’s pre-industrial model, rather than the meaning of the work.

Of course, we cannot change the world’s practice. Money is and will always be part of the work. We do not want to enter into a completely unrealistic vision of the workplace. Ask anyone why he goes to work and first or second answer will surely be money. But I think it is important for an organization to understand some of the bad effects brought by this motivational system on their own group.

 

 

Paul Piff: http://new.ted.com/talks/paul_piff_does_money_make_you_mean.