Cultural Intelligence



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Cultural Intelligence
Cultural engagement, understanding and communication in a complex and constantly changing business environment
A case study at Radiometer Medical ApS

Aalborg University, July 2009

Culture, Communication and Globalization

Master’s Thesis

Heidrun Knorr

Cultural Intelligence
Cultural engagement, understanding and communication in a complex and constantly changing business environment
A case study at Radiometer Medical ApS

Aalborg University, July 2009

Culture, Communication and Globalization

Master’s Thesis

Supervisor: Susan Baca

Heidrun Knorr


Keystrokes: 191275

Standard pages: 79,7



Abstract
From a constructivist perspective, this Master’s thesis in Culture, Communication and Globalization aims at providing insight into what it realistically takes to ensure requisite variety in the area of cultural intelligence at Radiometer ApS.

Due to the globalization of the business world the context of doing business has changed dramatically and working cross-culturally often is perceived as extremely challenging. The same notion was found to be present at Radiometer Medical ApS. According to one of its employees, intercultural collaboration, both within the organization’s boundaries and across its boundaries, generates quite some problems, which cost the company both time and money.

In order to better understand these “issues”, and to obtain a deeper understanding of the concept of cultural intelligence in practice in relation to the needs of individual managers, semi-structured interviews with ten leaders within Radiometer Medical ApS were conducted. The statements given provided an insight into how the managers and leaders in question experienced cross-cultural encounters, whether they played a role in their daily business life, and which importance they ascribed to culture in general.

To make sense of the statements made by the interviewees, the theoretical frameworks of Cultural Intelligence as outlined by Elisabeth Plum along with Gareth Morgan’s conceptualization of an organization as a holographic brain were employed. By this means, insight is provided into which aspects play a role in cross-cultural encounters and how possible issues can be avoided.

The data generated through the interviews disclosed that the employees had experienced challenging cross-cultural encounters at different levels of the organization: between different nationalities, professions / departments, and between Danaher and Radiometer. Explanations given as to why problems in cross-cultural collaborations arise included notions of insufficient language skills, deficient face-to-face contact, and lacking awareness of cultural differences. Implicitly addressed causes of less successful cross-cultural encounters are stereotyping and Radiometer’s organizational structure which seems to support silo-thinking.

Ways to improve the outcome of cross-cultural encounters are partly suggested by the interviewees themselves. For example, they proposed that Radiometer’s corporate language, English, should be used throughout the company, including production, because using a common language is experienced as helping to integrate non-Danish speaking personnel. In addition, increased cross-functional and cross-departmental collaborations are mentioned as a means to knowledge-sharing which also would break down communication barriers currently present between Radiometer’s different departments.

Other recommendations for enhancing Radiometer’s requisite variety in the area of cultural intelligence are varied, including, for example, the necessity for strong cultural awareness, additional cross-cultural contacts by utilization of networks, and appropriate cultural, language and communication training. Also, the implementation of an information system with relevant information on culture, which could include simple reminders or ‘checklists’ for all employees, could be an asset in order to better understand the influence culture can have on business effectiveness.




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