Got Synergy? Three easy steps to use intercultural synergy and blow your problem-solving strategies out of the water

ID-100265499Three easy steps to use intercultural synergy

The key to effectively utilizing diversity in an organization is creating synergy. Synergistic management strategy recognizes cultural difference and similarity and views it as a resource. Difference and similarity are given the same weight of importance and recognizes that there are many ways to live and work. Which way is best, depends on the situation.

Most management practices fall within four basic approaches. By themselves, these approaches may be appropriate actions to take, but do not necessarily create synergy. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

For example, managers can choose to maintain their existing behaviors and approaches that they learned at home when they truly believe they are the right way. This can potentially cost business relationships, but especially when ethics are involved, it can sometimes be the best choice. Conversely, managers can attempt to blend in with the cultures in which they find themselves. This can be effective for creating business in the target culture but can alienate the source culture.

Another approach is to blend the first two, creating a compromise. This too can alienate representatives still immersed in the home culture if the manager is felt to be sacrificing too much. Cultural conflict can also simply be ignored or avoided, and managers can allow cultural practices or behaviors to pass uncontested. This is a useful approach when the cost of such avoidance is less than the potential gain from maintaining business with culturally different individuals, locations, or organizations.

ID-100151877Synergy differs from these first four approaches because it creates a new system for addressing problems. It can involve combining these approaches in various ways, or coming up with something entirely new. Either way, it neither ignores nor minimizes the problem, but consciously leverages difference as a resource to be creatively used.

Adler and Gundersen (2002) outline three steps to a problem solving approach that creates effective synergy in organizations.

icon10Describe the situation: include both a recognition of the problem and the perspectives of all cultures involved. Avoid interpretation or evaluation; just describe the problem, drawing in as many perspectives as possible.

icon11Culturally interpret the situation: Recognize historical and cultural assumptions and implications. Questioning what is motivating behaviors. Remember that “all behavior is rational from the perspective of the person behaving.” Drawing on multiple perspectives can illuminate that rationale.

icon12Increase cultural creativity: Learning how to enhance effectiveness and productivity from other cultures. Find ways to effectively combine and leverage the various cultures involved in a situation is another. Look for opportunities to equalize advantages and disadvantages so that all involved can bring forward their best thoughts and abilities. Seize opportunities to make everyone happy without compromising anything that truly matters to any party involved. Think outside the box created by your own cultural perspectives!

What problem have you solved using intercultural synergy?

Click Here for your FREE Teach Abroad Starter Kit


Adler, N.J. and Gundersen, A. (2002). International dimensions of organizational behavior. Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

About The Author

Desiree Beauchamp

Teacher, trainer, coach, consultant. Find out more about me at: About Us