There will always misinterpretations of culture (like the photo above).
I’ve done training & development work in Canada, the U.S., India, the Philippines, the Arctic, Japan, Mexico, Kenya, Saskatchewan, Uganda, Tanzania, Brazil, Spain, France, China and soon, Egypt with workshop participants from more than 80 countries. Currently I’m living & working in Kenya.
As a result I get asked about culture, about whether people from different countries learn differently (or something similar) fairly often.
I thought it was high time I answered in a blog post.
My answer? Yes … and … no.
Yes, people from different countries learn differently. Culture is a what makes us human & what makes training & development so interesting. Ignore cultural differences at your peril. You’ll end up in a pickle pdq if you do.
Here are 5 factors that my antennae are attuned to when I’m in a different cultural context than my own (note, this includes diverse organizational cultures, not just diversity related to race and/or ethnicity).
- gender – I look for how gender issues are addressed, what’s on people’s radars & what’s not.
- environment – I notice how participants relate to their physical environment, including how they relate to each other. For example how close are they to each other when they talk/sit/interact?
- power – is power actively shared or are systems more hierarchical? How do decisions get made? I look to see how power issues affect how people work & learn.
- authority – how do people respond to authority? This is often evident regarding how participants see me as the trainer – am I accepted carte blanche simply because I’m the trainer (at least on the surface) or will people engage & challenge me?
- formal / informal – I can often tell how formal or informal a workplace or training situation is by how people are dressed, the kind of language they use,
No, people from different countries don’t learn differently. I’ve found that no matter where in the world I am working, participants respond positively to & learn best through these 5 factors:
- the strategic (note strategic is emphasized) use of humour
- training processes that tweak their curiousity
- teaching styles that are engaging
- material that is relevant
- having opportunities to practice (transfer learning to the workplace)