It's an Inside Job

Building Multicultural Teams: Insights and Strategies with Dr. Catherine Wu.

February 12, 2024 Season 5 Episode 7
Building Multicultural Teams: Insights and Strategies with Dr. Catherine Wu.
It's an Inside Job
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It's an Inside Job
Building Multicultural Teams: Insights and Strategies with Dr. Catherine Wu.
Feb 12, 2024 Season 5 Episode 7

In this episode, we delve into the significance of cultural intelligence for bridging divides and fostering resilience in societies. Joining me is Dr. Catherine Wu, a seasoned expert in cultural intelligence, who shares invaluable insights on navigating multicultural environments.

Our discussion starts by challenging the traditional approach to understanding culture, highlighting its dynamic nature and the inadequacy of mere cultural knowledge. We explore how cultural intelligence reshapes perceptions, encouraging individuals to see beyond stereotypes and acknowledge the uniqueness of each person.

We then explore the research-backed pillars of cultural intelligence: cognition, behavior, and motivation. I stress the importance of ongoing training to combat biases and establish inclusive team dynamics in multicultural settings.

Dr. Wu underscores the necessity of intentional norm creation within multicultural teams, emphasizing the pitfalls of aligning norms solely with dominant members. We share examples, such as contrasting decision-making styles between Norwegian and Japanese engineers, to illustrate the impact of cultural differences.

Addressing the question of minority adaptation, we acknowledge power imbalances and advocate for inclusive environments, while recognizing contextual nuances where adaptation might be expected.

Finally, we highlight the advantages of cultural intelligence, including heightened creativity and cognitive complexity. Our conversation underscores the value of openness, acceptance, and a willingness to embrace diverse perspectives in today's interconnected world.

Dr. Catherine Wu is a teacher, speaker, and cultural intelligence evangelist.
A passionate advocate for cultural diversity, Catherine is currently working towards telling 10 million people about cultural intelligence through speaking, writing, and creating social media content. In 2022, she launched The Cultural Quotient podcast, the first podcast to grow cultural intelligence at work and in life.

As a speaker, Catherine frequently gives talks and conducts workshops on cultural intelligence for public and private organisations.

Catherine holds a PhD in Leadership and Cultural Intelligence from the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence in Singapore. She is French and has lived in Asia for the past 18 years. She lives in Singapore with her Taiwanese American husband and 3 third-culture kids.

Dr. Catherine Wu's contact info:
Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/drcatherinewu/
Website:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/7j4sv0KIw4rIyxOc3IUqz8
Podcast:  https://open.spotify.com/show/07Ig9X29uWFmuohsGzFOIt

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episode, cultural intelligence, Dr. Catherine Wu, individuals, unique, challenge biases, multicultural environments, cognition, behavior, motivation, intentional team norms, acceptance, cultural differences, benefits, increased creativity, cognitive complexity, curious, open-minded, learning, other cultures, practical insights, diverse settings

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we delve into the significance of cultural intelligence for bridging divides and fostering resilience in societies. Joining me is Dr. Catherine Wu, a seasoned expert in cultural intelligence, who shares invaluable insights on navigating multicultural environments.

Our discussion starts by challenging the traditional approach to understanding culture, highlighting its dynamic nature and the inadequacy of mere cultural knowledge. We explore how cultural intelligence reshapes perceptions, encouraging individuals to see beyond stereotypes and acknowledge the uniqueness of each person.

We then explore the research-backed pillars of cultural intelligence: cognition, behavior, and motivation. I stress the importance of ongoing training to combat biases and establish inclusive team dynamics in multicultural settings.

Dr. Wu underscores the necessity of intentional norm creation within multicultural teams, emphasizing the pitfalls of aligning norms solely with dominant members. We share examples, such as contrasting decision-making styles between Norwegian and Japanese engineers, to illustrate the impact of cultural differences.

Addressing the question of minority adaptation, we acknowledge power imbalances and advocate for inclusive environments, while recognizing contextual nuances where adaptation might be expected.

Finally, we highlight the advantages of cultural intelligence, including heightened creativity and cognitive complexity. Our conversation underscores the value of openness, acceptance, and a willingness to embrace diverse perspectives in today's interconnected world.

Dr. Catherine Wu is a teacher, speaker, and cultural intelligence evangelist.
A passionate advocate for cultural diversity, Catherine is currently working towards telling 10 million people about cultural intelligence through speaking, writing, and creating social media content. In 2022, she launched The Cultural Quotient podcast, the first podcast to grow cultural intelligence at work and in life.

As a speaker, Catherine frequently gives talks and conducts workshops on cultural intelligence for public and private organisations.

Catherine holds a PhD in Leadership and Cultural Intelligence from the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence in Singapore. She is French and has lived in Asia for the past 18 years. She lives in Singapore with her Taiwanese American husband and 3 third-culture kids.

Dr. Catherine Wu's contact info:
Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/drcatherinewu/
Website:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/7j4sv0KIw4rIyxOc3IUqz8
Podcast:  https://open.spotify.com/show/07Ig9X29uWFmuohsGzFOIt

Tags

episode, cultural intelligence, Dr. Catherine Wu, individuals, unique, challenge biases, multicultural environments, cognition, behavior, motivation, intentional team norms, acceptance, cultural differences, benefits, increased creativity, cognitive complexity, curious, open-minded, learning, other cultures, practical insights, diverse settings

Support the Show.


Sign up for the weekly IT'S AN INSIDE JOB NEWSLETTER

  • takes 5 seconds to fill out
  • receive a fresh update every Wednesday

Transcript


[0:00] Music. 

Introduction to It's an Inside Job podcast


[0:09] Welcome back to It's an Inside Job podcast. I'm your host, Jason Liem.
Now, this podcast is dedicated to helping you to help yourself and others to become more mentally and emotionallyresilient, so you can be better at bouncing back from life's inevitable setbacks.
Now, on It's an Inside Job, we decode the science and stories of resilience into practical advice, skills, and strategies thatyou can use to impact your life and those around you.
Now, with that said, let's slip into the stream.

[0:37] Music. 

Intensity of Differences and Polarization in Society


[0:45] Well, welcome back to another week of It's an Inside Job. I'm your host, Jason Liem.
Have you guys been noticing lately that there seems to be an intensity, a ratcheting up of differences?
You know, and this is at a cultural level. I mean, I see it nationally, I see it regionally, I see it religiously, politically.
I mean, you could put almost any adjective to this and it seems that we are being pulled to polar ends of differentspectrums.
And the usual conduits that can pull us together is discourse, it's discussion.
But even that seems to be shut down.
So this week I wanted to bring on a guest who can speak to cultural differences, these cognitive biases that we're allinbaked with that allow us to see separation between us and other individuals, but also the bonding that we have withother people, you know, this tribal mentality per se.
So today I am privileged and pleased to be joined by Dr. Catherine Wu.
She's a teacher, a speaker, a cultural intelligence evangelist.
She is a passionate advocate for cultural diversity and is currently working towards telling 10 million people aboutcultural intelligence through speaking, writing, and creating social media content.
In 2022, she launched the Cultural Quotient Podcast, the first podcast to grow cultural intelligence at work and in life.

[2:04] Now as a speaker, Dr. Catherine frequently gives talks and conducts workshops on cultural intelligence for publicand private organization.
She holds a PhD in leadership and cultural intelligence from the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence inSingapore.
She's French and she's lived in Asia for the past 18 years.
So join me on this fascinating conversation I will have with Dr.
Catherine Wu now, as we dive into the practicals and pragmatics to overcome these cognitive biases, to understand whatcultural intelligence truly is, and how we can increase our awareness about it, to increase the dialogue and the discourse,to help us bring us together, to see that maybe there are more things that we have in common than we have indifferent.
So without further ado...

[2:50] Music. 

[2:59] Well, welcome back to It's an Inside Job. Today, I have Dr. Catherine Wu with me.
I hope I pronounced your name correctly, Catherine. Yes, perfect.
I was wondering, could we begin with a conversation by you introducing yourself to our audience and what you do? Yes.

Introduction to Dr. Catherine Wu and her expertise in cultural intelligence


[3:17] So, I'm a professor of cultural intelligence here in Singapore.

[3:23] So, cultural intelligence, you may ask what that is. to make it very simple as cross -cultural relations.
And I teach people skills to adapt, to work in environment where people come from all around the world.
I live in Southeast Asia, in Singapore. I've been here for 14 years already.
And this is a very, it's a very diverse part of the world.
Singapore is very small. It's a city state with about 6 million people living here.
And 40 % of the workforce in Singapore come from outside of Singapore, which is one of the places in the world whereit's almost impossible to have a career and live your life without at some point working with someone who comes fromelsewhere.

[4:11] As for me, I'm French so I wasn't born in Singapore.
I've been in Asia for 20 years and I first came many, many years ago as a 21 -year -old a 23 -year -old who was dreamingto see the world.
I first left France for China and originally I had this idea that I wanted to experience a culture shock.
So, I had studied abroad as a French, I had studied in England, in the UK.
And it was challenging for me, mostly because of the language.
But when I graduated, I decided that I wanted to help people adapt to other cultures.
And how can I do that if I have never experienced a true culture shock?
So I decided I will go to China, where I didn't know anybody, I didn't have a job, I could speak 12 words of Chinese,exactly.
And I will tell you which which they were.

[5:16] And yeah, and then I went and I had my culture shock.
I had many, I want to say, and I spent four and a half years in China.
And after that time, I decided that cross cultural communication was my passion.
I saw a lot of something very deep and important in helping people bridge the culture gap.
And I wanted to study this more deeply to understand it better, not just at the superficial level of, you know, the French arelike this and the Chinese are like that, but at a deep level as an individual, what are some of the skills I can learn so that Ican be more open and more flexible and more accept better people who have very, very different way of doing things.
I think it's very interesting, especially considering how the world, you know, this may be very black and white, but youknow, when we watch the news, when we hear what's going on through our social media feeds, you can see thispolarization.
I mean, there's always been a degree of polarization, don't get me wrong, but it just seems much more excessive currently.

[6:32] Even considering what has happened lately in the Middle East and how we get so pulled to each end of the spectrumand cultural intelligence or cross -cultural communication is such a vital point right now.
And to create resilient societies, you need...
An understanding. Again, this is my perspective.
So perhaps we could begin by what is cultural intelligence?
Could you maybe simply operationally define it from your experience?

[7:05] Cultural intelligence, the academic definition, is the capability of an individual to adapt to different cultures anddifferent environments.
Now, you know, I've been working in that space for about at least actively as an academic for 14 years, but I've beeninterested in this topic for much longer and I've thought a lot about it. What does it mean, right?

[7:29] And I came to realize one thing is that, so traditionally when we teach culture, we teach culture from an externaloutsider point of view.
We describe other cultures. We say, okay, we are going to describe the Chinese culture, we're going to describe the Frenchculture.
And it gives a sense that culture is something static. And if only I can learn everything I can, you know, if I know all thesethings about other cultures, maybe I can just change the way I do things to adapt to them, right.
But you and I, we've lived across cultures, and we work with people from all around the world.
And we know that it's, it's a lot more complicated than that.
I think you, I want to start back from how you frame that question.
You say, you know, as the world is going, is getting polarized and we see all these people pulling away.
I think there's something in the human mind that creates segregations.
We categorize, we see people as separate groups. We naturally associate with certain groups and separate from others.
And this is our natural instinct. And all this bias, I mean, we can call this unconscious biases.
They are hardwired. That's the way our brain works. Psychologists have established this.
We know they happen all around the world. It has nothing to do with your culture.
It's just natural, right? We stereotype and we separate.

[8:49] Now, cultural intelligence is nurturing the skills or the ability to, to a certain extent, change the way we think aboutother people so that we don't fall back on those, um, on those natural tendencies of our brain.
So where we feel the urge to separate with cultural intelligence, we, we can have the, the awareness of that our mind wantto make ourselves separated from another group.
Know, we start stereotyping, cultural intelligence is going to say, hey, now you're starting to stereotype.
Can you see things differently, right? Instead of assuming that they are all the same, can we look at each person as anindividual, get to know them individually?
So cultural intelligence, the way I, you know, in my experience, in my understanding is, is more like a set of, I like to callthat habits of minds, that allow us to have to bridge communities and relationships with people who are different from us,from who we will naturally prefer to dissociate, you know, to separate because that would be more comfortable, thatwould be more of a human instinct.

Understanding cultural intelligence as a way to bridge communities and relationships


[9:59] I remember there was this one incident in the States, I think it was a couple of years ago where a couple of Africangentlemen were in a Starbucks, African American gentlemen were in a Starbucks and one of the employees automaticallyassumed something that they should be and the police came and kicked them out.
And there was this whole uproar about this, which evidently is understandable.
So Starbucks, you know, started this whole cultural sensitivity training for all their employees.
But when you kind of look at the studies, all that investment in cultural sensitivity training in that sort of corporateenvironment, what it actually did, it didn't really change a lot.
It may have with some individuals, but overall, there was not a significant statistical difference. I was wondering, couldyou speak to this a little?

[10:55] So I want disclaimer, diversity, DEI, you know, EDI, this is not really my space.
I think the way I, what I work with is more cultural diversity in terms of like international multicultural teams.
But what I can say about one reason why these trainings, they fail, is because they tend to create a sense that one of thecriticisms has been that this kind of training on unconscious bias actually increases and amplifies the stereotyping and thebiases in people.
That's because people become overly sensitive and so then they have different reactions.
One is like they compensate and then they completely shift to the other side or they just prefer to to stay away from all ofthis.
And by staying away, then they end up, you know, separating even more from the community that they are supposed toget closer.
And I think it's a natural productive mechanism. Now.

[12:00] I, as I say, I cannot speak specifically to this kind of training, but what I can tell from my experience of teachingcultural intelligence, because a lot of this, that's why I call this habits of minds.
These are skills, but they are mental skills.
So in order to train a mental skill, like a habit, it's a habit, you have to do this over a long period of time.
And one challenge I feel that organizations have is this, you know, when you do a training, it's usually one day, two days,it's like, it's very short, and there is no reinforcement over time. Exactly.
Right. So it's just one touch point that makes people feel very scared and uncomfortable.
Then they go back to, you know, their normal life.
And suddenly, like, there's this big elephant in the room that was there already.
But before that, we were not talking about it. So it was okay, right, but suddenly there's the elephant and it's very visibleand now we don't know what to say, we don't know what to do, which reinforces a sense of discomfort.

[13:00] One of the assumptions I make is that it's not that the training don't work, it's just the format is not designed tocreate the outcome or the impact that it's supposed to create.
I think that's what, I think just to stop, I think that's really well said because a lot of these times when they have thesecultural sensitive training, because sometimes you think they're just putting a Band -Aid over the problem and they're notreally addressing the cause of the wound.
And what I hear you're saying is that cultural intelligence from your aspect, you know, the deeper dive, it's much moresubstantive because what you do is become self -aware of these.

[13:40] Cognitive biases that are inherent in every human being.
But what I hear you saying, it's over a long period, it's not just a patch, but you're constantly returning to it to build ahabitual way of thinking.
So the cognitive biases are over there, but you just become much better at becoming self -aware and the culturalsensitivities in that room and to address it in a much more diplomatic way. Yeah, that's right.

The Importance of Cultural Intelligence


[14:08] So one of the quality of... Okay, maybe I can give you some background on the research on cultural intelligence.
The research on cultural intelligence started because, you know, some people said, okay, what's the difference betweenthose people who adapt very well to other cultures?
You know, you put them to any team and they always do really well and people love them and like the team performreally well.
And then you have these other people, they are really good, like in their country, for example, but then we send them toanother country and they cannot adapt.
You know, they cannot work, nobody like them.
So they started looking at what are some of the qualities.
But historically, the research on intercultural competence was done by looking at, you know, the people, interviewingthem and asking them, what do you do?
Now in cultural intelligence, the researchers, they took a different way, a different approach. They say, okay.

[15:00] What is the fundamentally, what is adaptability?
And in psychology, adaptability is the definition of intelligence.
When you have intelligence, when you're intelligent, you can adapt, right?
We think of intelligence as the ability to solve problems, you know, to score highly on tests and stuff like that.
But for social psychologies, intelligence is just your ability to adapt to the environment that you are in.
And this lay the foundation of the theory of multiple intelligence, because different type of environment are going to callfor different type of adaptability.

[15:39] So if you want to perceive the emotions of others in your environment, this is emotional intelligence.
But it's not because you have a high IQ, like an intellectual quotient, that you have high emotional intelligence. These areseparate things.
And then people who are very good building connections, they have high social intelligence, and then you have all thesedifferent forms of intelligence.
And at the time, it was in the late 1980s, early 1990s, there was so this idea of multiple intelligence was starting to beexplored.
Emotional intelligence was starting to rise in, you know, in fame.
And so this team of researchers from Singapore, actually, They say, well, they look at all this intelligence.
They say, is there a form of intelligence that determines a person's ability to adapt to other cultures, to environment,whatever is cultural diversity? And there was none.
So they say, okay, fine, we're going to try it. We're going to define it this way.
And then they went back to what's intelligence and intelligence is, you know, how do we, what are some of the qualitiesthat are associated with this ability to adapt, right? and there are three broad...

The Three Elements of Cultural Intelligence


[16:57] Determinants? A real determinants, yes, which is related to, so of course it's in the head.

[17:03] So the head, the cognitive element is very strong, right? I think when we think of intelligence, everybody thinks ofthe mind, right?
We think about how much knowledge we have, how our ability to solve certain kind of problems.

[17:16] And then you have something related to the, to the, your actions, your behavior, like how can you translate what'sin your head into something that can help you adapt, right?
I mean, if you think of things like adapting to nature, people who are really good at surviving in the wild, they can figureout how to create basic tools, basic shelter, like finding food, but you also need the ability to use your hands to craft thetools to do this.
So that's one form of intelligence, but it's also translate this idea.
I mean, it also gives you the idea that what's in your head has to be translated in some form of something that you can dowith your hands.
And then there's also another element that they brought in, which is the motivation, the drive.
You need to, it's not enough to have a lot in your hand and to can do it. You need to want to do it.
So they define cultural intelligence as a combination of these three or four broad sets of capability.
And then they look more deeply and they started exploring how people who adapt to other cultures, how do they solveproblems?
And one thing that they do, like what you say, it's not like they don't have biases or unconscious bias.
It's not like they don't stereotype or, you know, they don't judge or things like that. But when they do, they are better atcatching themselves.

[18:37] So they will stereotype, they will say, oh, you know, people in that group, they are all like this. And then they willsay, no, no, I shouldn't be saying that, right?
I realize it's a thought I have, but I shouldn't be saying it, I should adjust and I should adapt.
And it's the same with, you know, when we have this tendency to jump to conclusion, we see something, we make up astory very quickly, right?
So people who have that quality of cultural intelligence, they will be like, okay, wait a minute, I don't have all theinformation, I need to look, you know, broad, more broadly, and try to make sense of what's going on here.
So it's this ability to, it's like it's, I call this the slow mind, is the ability to slow down your thinking.

[19:19] And this, that's why I feel like we need to have training.
You know, those skills, some people will acquire them naturally through their upbringing because, well, partly because it'stheir personality, but also partly that they have that chance to be engaged in those very diverse environments and so on.
But most people don't, like most people don't have the experience.
And it's very, very hard to imagine, you know, to just to see from the perspective of somebody else or to move away fromthose blinders that our mind naturally have without if, I mean, on our own, right.

[20:01] So to bring it back to the unconscious bias, you know, training is this is fundamentally, you know, the ability likethe skills of cultural intelligence is just is to train people to think in a new way in a different way.
And this cannot happen. If it's just a one time in like intervention, you need to have repeated reinforcements.
You said you work with a lot of international teams and such.
So you know, that would speak evidently to let's say there's 10 people in the room.
They're all part of the same team. They're coming from different regions.
But with that, you have obviously a handful of different cultural norms and those cultural norms can be quite significantor very little.
Yeah. But what do you do to help a team move from sort of their own individual cultural norms to find some sort of teamnorm so which they can collaborate and communicate?

Importance of strong alignment and clarity in diverse teams


[21:08] So, naturally, culture is, I want to say, is the default when there's no other habit or option.
So, first of all, it depends on what the team is...

[21:21] Like what the team has to do. So, in teams that are diverse, there are two conditions that usually need to be met.

[21:31] The first one is there needs to be a very strong alignment on what the team is trying to do.
Why are we here and what is it that we need to work on together that we cannot do on our own?
So, this is what brings teams together, right?
And once we have a very strong why as a team, then the next condition is to have a lot of clarity of what we need to do toachieve that why.
Now, when in the what we need to do, it can mean different things.
It can mean obviously was a job that we have to do, was a task, was the end goal.
But it's also about the how are we going to get there in terms of, you know, can we create a new way of communicating inour team?
Can we create a new way of, you know, organizing the work?
Because when the norms are very clear and people know, you know, what is the way we communicate in this team, theway we, organize the work and things like that, they are less likely to fall back to their natural preferred way of doingthings, which is usually their culture.
So typically what I've seen in in multicultural teams, they are different.
When you say, you know, when people come from all around the world, they have different norms, but typically there aretwo norms that really cause a lot of tension.

[22:57] One is related to the communication, and this is also associated to, it's the communication that is influenced by thepower structure in the team.
So cultures usually that are used to very hierarchical structure of decisions, right?
A team will naturally have a leader and the leader is going to tell us what to do.
Also, people would expect the leader to tell them when to talk.
So there is less, the communication is more passive, is more assertive.
And it's interesting because I work in Asia, so I work with a lot of teams made of people from Asia who also have to workwith people in other parts of the world.
And one story I often hear is people being passed up for promotion because they, you know, they wanted to be promotedor they wanted to be reassigned, reallocated to a job in Europe, for example.
And the boss say, sorry, but you know, we never hear your voice.
You are not leadership material, right?
And part of it is because of the norms of communication in Asia generally, when people have a strong respect forauthority and they are less likely to promote themselves and to be assertive in their communication.
So that creates a lot of tension.

[24:21] The other one is related to, you know, things like time and deadline.
How much, how strict should we be on the time?
Idea related to perfection, like, you know, how well do we need to work?
How perfect should things be?
How much work do we need to put in? In some cultures where perfection is really important, people work really hard.
In some other cultures where it's more like, okay, you do your best, but you know, then there is also more flexibility. Sothat creates a lot of tension.
So I think what's really important to do is to get, to align and create some norms from the beginning.

Establishing inclusive norms and addressing power imbalances


[25:01] Now the norms don't have to be aligned with any culture in particular, but if they are, then there needs to be somerecognition that not everybody enter the team at the same level.
So, and that's why we talk about more inclusive norms and back to my point about communication, an inclusive way, aninclusive norm for communication is to not to expect everyone to speak up whenever they have an idea and a thought,because most people in the world really won't do that because most cultures in the world actually are more hierarchicalwith a higher, more expectations that you have to wait for your turn in order to speak.
And if you are not invited, you know, you just don't speak.

[25:47] So in my experience, I mean, when I've seen teams and teams that work really well, are usually teams that havevery strong, strong norms for getting everybody's inputs is very strict and very structured.
And it's something that is enforced by the leader over and over again.
And generally it comes, it has two steps. the first one is we always talk we always speak in turn so everybody is invited tospeak.

[26:14] So we hear everyone. And the second thing is the most junior member in the team always speak first.
Because again, when the hierarchy is high, people who are more junior will have a tendency to agree with a more senior.
So whatever good idea that they will have, they won't feel comfortable speaking up if somebody else more senior hasalready spoken.
So it's these two things, you know, speak in turn and always start with a more junior person. You know what I like aboutit, it's very pragmatic, it's very practical, it's very skill -based.
And what it sounds like also at the same time, this is something that has to be constantly encouraged.
And you have to constantly return to it and sort of underscore the importance of this.
Because as you said, you know, myself, I come from a cross -cultural family.
My father was Chinese and my mom was British.
And you know, just if we bring it down to the black and white, you know, the Chinese out of my family, they wouldn't justdive into the topic.
It would be a little of a socialization around things, a little more small talk and get it to it.
My mom's side, it was just to get straight to the point.
Now, this is just a family, but you can understand the complexities that would bring to a business, especially if a businesshas to move forward, has to meet deadlines.

[27:33] You know, as you said, some cultures, they have kind of, you say three o 'clock, but for them it could be five o'clock, right?
Yeah. And it's setting that and making that evidently clear. This is what we need.
And as you said, setting team norms and then obviously reinforcing those norms.

[27:51] And I think what's really important in teams, especially when there is diversity.
So the main challenge with diversity is when there is a power imbalance.
So in a team, you know, like people should not perceive that their norms are seen as inferior and somebody else's normsare superior.
So when we fix team norms, they have to be the team norm. It's about the team.
It's not about one group, you know, imposing their view on the other.
And I think that's really important. I mean, I've seen teams that work remotely from the entire lifespan, you know, teamsthat were created even before the pandemic, where leaders were very intentional about building those remotecollaborations, international collaborations.
And what was really fascinating about this is the intentionality behind the team norms.

[28:49] And the norms were not created, they did not emerge like naturally or spontaneously.
Because if you let the norms emerge naturally, usually what will happen is the norms will be more aligned with the mostvocal, the more assertive.
The more dominant members of the team. And generally, these are the cultures, you know, in Europe, in North America,that are more vocal and bone domineering, which then if you set this as a norm for the team creates a lot of resentment inthe other team members from other cultures who feel that they can't keep up because, you know, they are not used to it,it's too difficult.
And anyway, even if they try, they are at a disadvantage because they don't have the same experience and familiarity.
So in those teams, I have seen that work really well. Actually, the team sit down together and intentionally they createnorms for the team.
So those norms are not associated with another culture or, you know, anyone, a background, but they are specificallydesigned for the team to work together.
And the question is, if we want to function well as a team, as a multicultural team, considering our cultural differencesand background, what do we need to right?
What is the best way for all of us to communicate, to organize the work, to set deadlines?
It's like creating a team charter or a team contract from the beginning and then revisiting this over and over.

[30:14] But this is, it sounds like something very simple or almost like, you know, why do we even do this? Why do webother?
But the idea is to minimize the tension that come from a perception of having less power.
Because one thing I have observed, you know, when I hear stories, when I watch people, especially because I'm in Asiaand generally in Asia, people are more reserved in their communication, especially in team when people are there.
People feel that they are at a disadvantage.
They feel like they can't compete.
You know, these people, they don't leave me any room to speak.
I have my, I have ideas, but I I cannot find a space to say my piece.
And then, you know, there's always somebody else that get promoted before me, that get more opportunities.
They don't work better than me, but they are just more vocal. They are more social.
They do some of those things that we don't do.
And that creates resentment. So to sit together and have a discussion around what is the best way for us to communicatein order to achieve our goals, remove that sense of you know like power imbalance and somehow give everybody.

[31:26] Music. 

Understanding Cultural Intelligence and Overcoming Stereotypes


[31:39] Cultural intelligence is the ability to adapt to different cultures and environments when interacting with peoplefrom diverse backgrounds.
It involves overcoming natural tendencies to stereotype and separate from other cultural groups, helping individuals seeeach person as an individual rather than clumping them together.
Cultural sensitivity training can sometimes backfire by increasing stereotypes and biases, as it may make people overlysensitive or lead them to avoid engaging with different communities.
It requires consistent training and reinforcement to become a habit of mind.
And adaptability is a key component of cultural intelligence, encompassing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and themotivation to adopt new perspectives.

[32:21] In the context of multicultural teams, Catherine suggested that the goal is to shift international teams away fromrelying on their cultural norms and towards establishing their own team norms.
To achieve this, she says, two key conditions must be met, a strong alignment regarding the team's objectives and a clearunderstanding of the requirements to achieve those objectives.
When working with diverse teams, challenges often arise in communication style, deadlines, and the quality of details.
To foster inclusivity, well, the important thing, she says, is to intentionally create communication norms, such as everyonespeaking in turns, and the most junior team members speaking first to reduce power imbalances and to ensure a moreequitable and collaborative team environment.
This intentional approach, well, it prevents the dominance of assertive team members and promotes a fair and inclusiveteam dynamic.
Such a fascinating part 1, while part 2 is just as engaging.
So let's slip back into the stream in part 2 with my.

[33:21] Music. 

Minority cultures and responsibility in a team dynamic


[33:32] So let me ask you, so let's, I've been assuming this is like a mixed bag of different cultures we've been talkingabout, but let's say there is a team, that there is a majority culture, and there's a couple of team members that are minoritycultures, and you do as much as you can, but the majority culture will tend to dominate.
I mean, how much responsibility and ownership comes down to the minority cultures on that team to have to just step up,right?
And, you know, put aside the resentment or feeling offended and where they just have to step up.
So if it is, let's say a Western culture, and it is, you know, everyone who you're a part of the team, so if you're sitting at thetable, you're just expected to speak up.
And this is this is communicated in a very direct diplomatic way over time to set these team norms.
But how much does it actually come back down, instead of the majority bending always to the minority that the minorityhas to just sort of step up their game?
I think it depends on the team and the context. So, you know, if you are, and so if you come to Singapore, for example,and you work in a company where more people are in Singapore from Singapore, naturally, you are minority, there is anexpectation that the minority would adapt to the majority. So.

[34:56] I mean, I think I, you know, there is, I get the idea of like, there is a level of inclusivity that we want to have, whichis nice, ideally.
But the reality is when you go to another country, when you have to adapt, because the, it's back to this idea of powerimbalance, the power imbalance is too strong, and it's not in your advantage as a mentor, the minority.

[35:18] The difference, but that would be different if we are talking about a global team, like assuming that, you know, youand I work together on a project that we have collaborators, you know, the Middle East and in Japan and, you know, inother countries, then it's a different story.
Because we don't, we all come more or less, you know, we come from different cultures, but there is no dominant, like,the context is more equal, like, we can, we all come in with our strengths.
And so there is less pressure to adapt one way or another.
And even if there were, you know, there is less reason or justification for it.
So I think the context of the team is really important.
Because I think that's important because that can create a lot of controversy.
When you have a mixed bag of cultures, then it's, I think it's, as you said, it's maybe a little easier to set more teamstandards where there is not one sort of dominant thing.
But for example, as a Canadian moving into Norway, when I work with Norwegian companies, I don't expect them to doeverything that Canadians do, right?
Me being one of ten people and the rest, let's say, are Norwegian, regardless of their ethnicity, but Norwegian, let's say,Norwegian mentality, and then I have a Canadian mentality.

[36:38] The onus comes down to me to adapt to that culture, right?
I can't constantly feel offended or constantly feel that I'm pushed aside.
At some point I have to, you know, take responsibility and ownership and step up to that team, right?
I need to adapt to this majority culture.
And I think sometimes that's where the controversy comes across the board, where maybe there's too much focus onpeople's sensitivities, too much sometimes, right?
And that makes us very brittle and fragile as a team or as an organization, at least from my perspective, working withdifferent teams and organizations here.
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I agree with you. You know, I, I lived in China for four and a half years, I worked for Chinesecompanies.

[37:28] I don't think, I mean, generally in that context, people will be a little bit more flexible towards me because theycannot expect me to behave like, you know, a Chinese.
But still, that requires some adaptation. But I think that's also why, that's also why originally the research on culturalintelligence started with a question, what's the difference between people who can adapt very well, and you know,wherever you put them, they always adapt, and the ones who don't, right?

[37:55] There is also a certain level of flexibility that is something that, I mean, partly is personality, partly is somethingthat we can learn and we can train.
And I think one of the things I have observed, you know, like with working with a lot of people from all around the worldis generally the, and I think that bring it back to the, this idea of unconscious bias and, and habit of mind is that people,people who struggle, usually they, they take the cultural behavior that they don't understand, they take them personally.
So they don't realize it's culture, they assume it's directed at them because of something that they have not done or done orsomething about them.
Recently, I heard the story of, it was an international student from an African country, and he was struggling coming toSingapore and and then I heard from his his friend who told me the story and his friend is from India and he took mycourse and he said you know my friend he is really having a hard time and he said that Asians are the problem and theydon't like him and you know that.

[39:12] And so I listened to his problems and then you know one day he comes and he has a problem with a Filipino so Itell him go and read about Philippine culture and then the next day he come and he has a problem with the Japanese and Itell him okay learn about the Japanese, but you know the student of mine from India he said but after a while I realizedthat actually the problem is not Asians the problem is my friend right it's my friend who think that, those behaviors thatare different from his cultures, he thinks it's because, you know, they don't say hi to him, for example, when they meethim.
They say, he thinks it's because they don't like him, but they don't say hi to me either.
He say, it's cultural. It's just that he doesn't understand that it's a cultural behavior.

[39:59] And I call that the center of the world syndrome. It's this idea that it's ethnocentrism, right?
It's this belief that we have that the way we think, feel, and you know, and the thing that we want, everybody else think,feel, and want the same, right?
And we judge others by our own cultural standards.
And when we go to other cultures, we don't realize actually things don't work like this over there.
We continue to judge them based on what we know.
That's why we go to other cultures and we say, oh, these people, they lack self -confidence, or these people, they areunprofessional or these people they are incompetent because we don't realize that you know we their behaviors are notdriven by the same things they don't have the same motivation and priorities.
I mean you mentioned this about your parents but we continue to judge them by what we know.
So there's the example of a colleague and she I mean a friend she was working she worked for international company andshe was telling me, you know, when she goes to Europe.
People tell her that, you know, you have to assert yourself, you have to be more of a leader.

[41:08] And when she comes, because apparently she said that she's not vocal enough and things like that.
And then, you know, when she comes to Asia, people say, you know, you are too strict, you are too tough as a leader.
So depending on where she is, the same person will be judged differently by different people who don't realize thatactually the way they judge her has nothing to do with leadership capability or being professional or unprofessional.
Instead, it's based on their own cultural programming and expectations.
And I think that's one of the main reasons why people who find it difficult to adapt to different cultures, they strugglebecause they cannot extract themselves from the center of the world syndrome.
They continue to judge others in the same way as what they are used to.
And whereas when you go to another culture, you have to throw away whatever you know and learn new standardsbecause whatever has worked for you in another country is not going to work exactly the same in this new environment.
I think that's so well said. Considering that, what tips would you give my listeners if they want to begin developing theircultural intelligence, let's say on a daily if not weekly basis, even if they're not directly involved in a diverse or a culturalwork environment, but they still want to do that because maybe they would like to eventually work in an internationalfirm or college or an international team.

[42:35] For me, the simplest thing you can do is every time you catch yourself looking at a person and say, you know, theyare so unprofessional, I think it's the basic, so unprofessional.
And if that person is from another culture than you, I want to say, stop for a moment and ask yourself, you know, what ifit's their culture?
Right. And my friend Vanessa Barros, she wrote a book on professionalism.
Actually this idea of professionalism is based on her dissertation work where she interviewed 200 executives and shestudied how they resolve cross -cultural conflicts and she found that when people don't understand the cultural differencesthey say they judge people as unprofessional and what she said she did well you know ask your whenever you feelanother person is unprofessional, ask yourself, if I think you are unprofessional, what do you think of me?
Do you think I am professional or unprofessional?
You know, because our idea of professionalism are fundamentally grounded in our culture, culture, not only our nationalculture, but our culture in terms of our experience in different organizations, in different professions, you know, ourprofessional education and all of this, also has trained us to have a certain standard of, you know, what is professionalbehaviors.

Endocentrism: Seeing Others Through Our Own Eyes


[44:03] But when we try to put ourselves in the shoes of others and see, you know, if I see you are unprofessional, do youreally, do I think you think I am professional?
You know, does that make me professional in your eyes?
Because the problem is this endocentrism, the center of the world syndrome.

[44:21] We only see others through our own eyes, but we almost never think about or stop to ask ourselves how otherpeople see us, right?
So my advice to the listeners is next time you catch yourself, like first catch yourself thinking so unprofessional, soincompetent, ask yourself, could there be something, could this have to do with their culture?
I think that's very interesting because I was working with a Norwegian company and they had rented.
There are sort of a maritime they work with vessels and such and they had rented one of their vessels to Japan and to theJapanese government and the Japanese government use it for the purposes that they need.
And they they crude it with Japanese.
But the Norwegians were there as as engineers and helping helping sort of crack problems.
And so when something came up as a challenge, you know, the Norwegians would just tend to adapt, they would make acall based on what they had to do and solve the problem.
The Japanese, on the hand, again, a cultural thing, they had to, you know, kick it up the ladder to get approval, and thathad to get kicked up the ladder and then down, right.
And so there's no right or wrong. But you can see where one culture is more of the collective to try to find a way ofsolving this problem.

[45:40] Evidently, it took more time, where the Norwegians in this case said, Okay, yeah, it's this, this, this, and they madethe not made the call, they just decided on what they had to fix.
Right? There was a shorter chain of communication, and thus resolving the issue.
But that's not to say that's the best way or the only way.
This is where I can see, you know, when you have two dominant cultures, and they're working, they're trying tocollaborate to create some sort of business or collaboration together, where this is even, even another dimension whereyou have two dominant cultures that are quite different, but they want to work together, right?
And I think the challenge in the case that you just shared is that, I imagine from the Norwegian, this is very frustrating,having to wait for the Japanese to go through up and down the ladders, because that's going to take a long time, right?
So in the meantime, they probably have some additional costs and delays and other implications of it.
So, the challenge of these cross -cultural conflicts and differences is they also create a lot of frustration.
And then because we are frustrated, we say, you know, like, this is so inefficient and this is...

[46:55] And I feel like one thing that I teach people is, you know, having those judgments is not going to help you verymuch.
And instead, we just have to recognize that culture is what it is. It may not be good or bad.
Maybe it's not always good and it's not always bad, but it's just the way it is. The Japanese, that's how they're going tomake decisions.
It's not because the Norwegian are going to push that they're going to change that, right?

[47:23] So these are things that we have to accept and we have to learn to deal with.
So the other day I was talking to a manager and we were, you know, I say, you know, but what's the big deal with cultureafter all?
You know, why do we, I mean, for me it's a big deal because it's my job, it's my life and my career, right?
But for most people it's just like, yeah, okay, whatever. Right, I'm like, why do we need to think of culture?
And that manager told me, somebody who worked in a very international environment for years.
And he told me, you know, for me, thinking of culture keeps me sane.
He said, some days, sometimes, some situation can be so frustrating.
I can become so angry at what's happening in front of me because of whatever reason.
And having that thought in my head to say, it's not them, it's the culture, It's just the way people do things here.
He said that helps me calm down and you know, find solutions, right?
Give me the mind space to find the solutions. And I thought that was a very nice way to explain it because it's just, theway I see it is culture is just a fact of life and we have different priorities, we have different preferences and differentways of doing things and we know, I mean we can get angry, we can, you know...

[48:45] Become frustrated or impatient is we can only change ourselves, right? We cannot change others and the way theythink and do things.

[48:55] So yeah, back to the Japanese and the Norwegian.

Frustration as a Signal for Communication


[49:02] I think it's the value of thinking of culture. It's like when the frustration is there, thinking is a culture.
It's an external thing that, you know, it's like it's the weather. I cannot do anything.
I can't complain about the weather all I want. I'm not going to change it. So it's the culture.
I think the frustration itself can be a good thing because it's a signal where things need to be communicated.
The subject needs to be breached and this question is okay, you know, you're X culture, we're Y culture.
We see that we have this, this creates tension between us.
How can we address it? Can we create some sort of collaboration norms that are neither culture, X or Y.
And you know, we talk about it. So when you see the frustration, we can actually define the frustration.
Okay, this is a touch point. This is a sensitive touch point, a pain point.
But how can we address it? Because this is going to come up again and again and again.
And so I think by, as you said, it's just being aware, sometimes our cognitive biases, the frames we may throw on people,the stereotypes we may use, whatever, right?
But I think that frustration or that irritation or that agitation allows us to say, you know what? Okay, here's a place wherewe can build a bridge.
How can we do this? So because we know this is going to come up again, and how do we deal with it? So it's not asfrustrating.

[50:27] I think this is a great point Jason because you know you asked me about what is cultural intelligence and I told youit is awareness and this habits of mind but actually there is another element to it and this is something that like it startedwith research in psychology has found that people who are bicultural or multicultural or who have been exposed to othercultures tend to be more creative they have more cognitive complexity and they are better at reconciling opposites, orthings that apparently look incompatible.
And I think that's the point I'm trying to make, right? It's like, okay, fine, you know, there's the Japanese and they have avery different way of doing things.
And of course, the first time we go into, they're going to go back to their cultural way, right?
But if they keep working together, and if truly they can develop the skill of cultural intelligence, that at one point theymay see new opportunities, you know, they may learn from each other, right?

[51:23] Because when we work together, when we are in a diverse environment, it's not just that, oh, I stick to my culture,you stick to yours, right?
Where we live for a long time in another culture, when you grew up in a bicultural, you know, between two parents whoare very different cultures, you don't just become one or the other, you actually embrace, you know, absorb some of it andyou become this melting pot of culture where you don't really identify anymore to one culture or the other becausesomehow you have adopted some of the habits of.

[51:57] Everywhere. So that's in the development, you know, the first encounter with another cultures is confusing, and it'sfrustrating, because it send us back to our own center of the world's idea, right.
But for those people who who can persevere and keep doing it, the ones who do well are the one who actually becomebetter at they don't just adapt in the sense of completely changing themselves.
They adapt by embracing new ways that they learn and they grab from other cultures.
So there's this level of integration.
And this is something that actually I teach my students. We do a lot of conflict resolution training.
And one thing that we learn to do is to embrace something called polarities.
You know, if you are a Norwegian that is super flexible and very, you can make decisions right on the spot, whereasyou're working with Japanese who have to go back to the hierarchy and, and check everything very carefully before theycan make the decision.

[53:00] And on the surface, it looks like very polar opposites.
But actually, if you think about it, both ways have pros and cons, right?
So truly cultural intelligence is, as a manager of that team, how can you leverage, you know, the positive of both so thatyou can create something that is much better than just team of Norwegian or just a team of Japanese.
And that is when diversity, you know, that's where you can really reap the benefit of diversity.
But that requires people in the team who are willing to go beyond their own way to accept that others have different waysand to start seeing the positive in the very strange or different way that other people do things and create something new,you that really make those diverse teams, the one that are really fantastic, they are the one who can really embrace allthese apparent contradictions and turn this into something that is new, right?

[54:06] That's very well articulated and it hits home the point for many of my listeners.
They work in multicultural or international teams and organizations or whether they're in school too. I mean a lot ofschools have such diverse populations now that's so important.
We're coming close to the top of our conversation. Is there any last tips or suggestions you would like to leave with mylisteners, Catherine?

Tips for Building Cultural Understanding and Curiosity


[54:32] I don't have like tips that's gonna solve big problems, but what I want to tell people and, you know, take the time tolearn about people from other cultures.
If you have a colleague who is from a very different culture than you, just take the time to have lunch and becomeinterested and curious.
Because at the end of the day, all these things, I know all these mental skills and mental habits that I have mentioned, wehave discussed today, you don't learn them like, you know, it's not like a five minutes thing.
There's no tip that's gonna make you think like this.
It's about being exposed and, you know, taking the time and to be curious and open.
And it's really in the contact, you know, having all these opportunities.
And sometimes when we work with other people, we don't, we are so into the work, into the task.
We don't learn to see them as individual. So I would say, you know, don't just, it's not just about work, it's about gettingthe person more deeply.

[55:33] And this has very deep immediate implication from understanding how people work and and how we can relatewith them in professional context.
Well Dr. Catherine Roux, Catherine, thank you very much for spending some time with me on It's Inside job today. It wasa fascinating discussion.
I mean we could have talked another hour I'm sure on all the difference.
We could have found all these little niches to explore when you talk about culture because it's so diverse, it's so complex,and there's so many moving parts to it.

[56:01] Music. 

The Danger of Assuming Everyone Thinks Alike


[56:11] The second part of my discussion with Dr. Catherine Wu serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the danger ofassuming that everyone thinks, feels, and behaves like we do, a phenomenon she refers to as the Censor of the WorldSyndrome.
Catherine emphasizes the importance of adaptability which involves changing our beliefs and building an understandingof new culture from scratch.

[56:33] Understanding different cultures helps us to be more present with our own beliefs and the meanings we assign tosituations. Additionally, being aware of cognitive biases allows us to override them and to foster empathy for those withdifferent perspectives.
We also talked about the pain points, the frustration that sometimes arises when two cultures are trying to achieve acommon goal.
The concept of using frustration as a signal to address and find solutions to cultural clashes underscores the importance ofestablishing team norms for constructive dialogue and discourse in multicultural teams.
Ultimately, the message is clear, cultural intelligence involves continuous self -awareness, adaptability, and the ability toconnect with others across cultural boundaries.
So I'd just like to send a personal thank you to you Dr. Katherine Wu for joining me today and sharing your insights andyour experience with us.
I think it goes a long way to help us bridge the gaps that are too expansive right now.
So thank you. If any of you would like to reach out to Dr. Katherine Wu, I will leave all her contact information in theshow notes.

[57:40] Well thanks for joining me for another week and allowing me to be part of that week.
If you have any questions, any feedback, any comments, please share them, send them my way. I'm always open tohearing from you guys.
And if you would do me a kind favor and share this podcast, ask people to subscribe and to rate this podcast, you'd bedoing me a huge solid as to spreading the word. And until the next time we meet, the next time we continue thisconversation.

[58:05] Music. 


Introduction to It's an Inside Job podcast
Intensity of Differences and Polarization in Society
Introduction to Dr. Catherine Wu and her expertise in cultural intelligence
Understanding cultural intelligence as a way to bridge communities and relationships
The Importance of Cultural Intelligence
The Three Elements of Cultural Intelligence
Importance of strong alignment and clarity in diverse teams
Establishing inclusive norms and addressing power imbalances
Understanding Cultural Intelligence and Overcoming Stereotypes
Minority cultures and responsibility in a team dynamic
Endocentrism: Seeing Others Through Our Own Eyes
Frustration as a Signal for Communication
Tips for Building Cultural Understanding and Curiosity
The Danger of Assuming Everyone Thinks Alike