CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE IN AFRICAN BUSINESS

In my last article, I dwelt on how African businesses must ensure that they prioritize cultural intelligence in all their undertakings in such a manner that all employees understand that the beliefs, values, and communication styles of their global client base are key to maintaining a competitive advantage.

Many years ago, I was a Team Leader in the marketing unit of one of Nigeria’s biggest and most successful international financial institutions. My office was located in the heart of a bustling, oil-rich city, and this meant that our clientele cut across high net worth people and organizations of very distinct and varied nationalities and cultures. My team was a repository of some of the organization’s smartest young people with top-notch training and hands-on experience in sales and marketing. A very hardworking colleague of mine was constantly following up with a customer – an Indian executive, and this entailed regular conversations over the telephone almost on a daily basis.

My colleague was of the Yoruba ethnic stock in Nigeria. If you are conversant with folks from that part of Nigeria, you would have noticed their natural predilection for effusive introductory salutations during conversations. The typical Yoruba conversationalist would naturally spend ample time repeatedly inquiring after the general wellbeing of all your relatives. It is their unique way of expressing love and concern.

None of us knew that, for months, my colleague had persisted in communicating with the Indian manager in this manner to the point of complete exasperation. On the day he finally decided to put a stop to the obvious irritation, the man sternly and curtly blurted out to my colleague over the telephone to spare him the long intro and “tell me business only!”

That was a classical case of cultural intelligence gone so wrong. Cultural Intelligence demands that we recognize that business in today’s world is hinged squarely on a holistic appreciation of cultural differences, beliefs, and attitudes that are very different from our own. To avert the sort of unpleasant scenario that unfolded in my colleague’s dealings with the Indian client, we must conscientiously get better at understanding and operating in a wide variety of cultures. A lack of cultural intelligence can lead to the type of gaffe that will cause upset and/or embarrassment, and which could potentially derail a business deal or project. Professionals that possess a high cultural intelligence quotient are more adept and successful at their work and business.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Written by: Noela UGWU, Image Consultant and a communication expert.

7 November 2021, Nigeria

Category: Cultural Intelligence

Reference: NU171121CI

“Somos una empresa de desarrollo de capacidades que conecta valores, culturas, organizaciones, individuos y sociedades en todo el mundo”

ORIGIN OF PROTOCOL: HUMAN COOPERATION

In the previous articles, we talked about what protocol (Protocol in the XXI Century) from a scientific point of view is, and what the existing literature around the discipline (Overview of the biography of Protocol) is like. Today we would like to talk about another equally relevant perspective: what is the origin of protocol?

The first answer that will probably come to our minds as professionals in the matter will be human socialization. After all, it is a tool used in the celebration of symbols. But according to what we have researched from the perspective of sociology or psychology, among other disciplines, this would be an obvious yet completely wrong answer.

From the psychological perspective, authors such as Ruiz Tafur (2009) review the phenomenon of socialization according to authors such as Freud and Piaget among others. Her findings lead her to argue that it is defined as the acquisition of patterns of behavior, attitudes and values that constitute the substrate on which the personality of the human being is built. Hence, socialization would allow us to explain how the integration of the norms and standards of society occurs but not the process of creating them. Therefore, from this psychological perspective protocol does not come from the phenomenon of human socialization.

If we look at the socialization process from a sociological perspective, it is considered to be the process by which a person becomes a functional member of society, acquiring the culture that is his own. That is, socialization is the process of acquiring a culture (Lucas Marín, 1986, p. 357). From this perspective, socialization has an important weight because it entails a process of formation and growth of an individual, but does not explain the origin of protocol.

Ruling out human socialization led us to investigate the latest scientific literature on human cooperation, and it is precisely there where we consider having found the origin of protocol.

Studies argue that the origin of altruism or cooperation would be in what we call parental altruism. In other words, it is the fact that occurs in animal and human species where cooperative behavior is experienced with the nearest «family» with the aim of perpetuating the genetic makeup. This type of behavior with the evolution of the species argues that it will end up being part of one or more genes in humans that will be transmitted from one generation to another. It is curious to say that the origin of cooperation is a selfish attitude.

This will produce, at one point or another, what is called «reciprocal altruism». This implies a predisposition to altruism not only towards the nearest «family» but to other people outside this nucleus who will also be recognized as altruists (Silva & Gustavo, 2015, p. 87). Although this is a limited altruistic behavior since it is subject to expected retribution in the not-too-distant future. Taken to the animal world we can give as an example the alert call of some types of birds when a predator approaches to warn the rest of the group.

It is precisely at this point that a first step is taken towards the emergence of protocol, since we move to the moment in which the human being realizes that collaborating in groups -first with one or two people, and then with bigger groups- increases their chances of survival in their environment. This fact, moreover, is a turning point for humanity, as it will be able to discriminate between selfish and altruistic people. This situation is associated with an evolution in which the concepts of friendship, culture, moral aggression, etc. will emerge that will function as elements that will reinforce, or not, cooperative behavior. In addition, communication and other associated skills will also be developed.

With this scenario that we have described, the necessary conditions are given for the birth of protocol. There will come a time when human being is in groups that need to equip themselves with a series of rules that guarantee harmony. Who eats the most nutritious food? Who will be the gatherers and who will be the hunters? Who sleeps in the safest place? Who has the necessary merits to lead and what are those parameters that make it fit for it? This situation is the origin of protocol in our point of view. Settlements will be created, dominant individuals will emerge, coalitions and hierarchies will be identified with symbols, gods will emerge that will respond and expand very abstract elementary concepts… The prevailing power will realize that the use of events and protocol is a powerful communication tool that helps them stay in power and create a «brand image».

In addition, this origin would explain why each social group has a different type of protocol depending on its culture. Each of these groups that had no contact, or very limited, with each other, has developed its own rules of coexistence and mechanisms. Therefore, in order to be able to deal with each other and to continue maintaining a peaceful coexistence, mechanisms have emerged that have given rise to what we call international and diplomatic protocol.

Protocol, hence, implies an escape from anarchy, chaos, and loneliness in search of the security offered by a group under a set of pre-established rules.

BIBLIOGRAFIA

Acedo, C., & Gomila, A. (2013). Confianza y cooperatión. Una perspectiva evolutiva. Contrastes. Revista Internacional de Filosofía, 18, 221-238. https://doi.org/10.24310/contrastescontrastes.v0i0.1169

Calvo, P. (2017). Reciprocidad cordial: Bases éticas de la cooperación. Ideas y Valores, 66(165), 85-109. https://doi.org/10.15446/ideasyvalores.v66n165.53225

Lucas Marín, A. (1986). El proceso de socialización: un enfoque sociológico. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 44(173), 357-370.

Ruiz Tafur, P. (2009). La Investigación En El Tema De Socialización. Psicogente, 12(22), 326-340.

Silva, C., & Gustavo, A. (2015). Cooperación humana, reciprocidad y castigo. Un enfoque evolutivo. Revista Colombiana de Filosofía de la Ciencia, 15(30), 81-121. 

Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Written by Daniel DELMÁS, Professional of events and protocol 

Category: International Protocol

Reference: DD171121IP

“Somos una empresa de desarrollo de capacidades que conecta valores, culturas, organizaciones, individuos y sociedades en todo el mundo”