Cultural misunderstandings contribute to business failures


The concept of the global village may be romantic, but it is also very problematic.

At a Jan. 27 lecture on “Developing Inter-Cultural Relations in Academia and Business,” Benaissa Al Yahiaoui, a consultant in culture-related business development, stressed that we must be aware of the differences amongst us.

In a world devoid of traditional borders, cultures are united each day. But the type of behaviour acceptable in one culture can be offensive to another. The ability to addresses those differences proves to be difficult.

“Somehow you must deviate, in a way, from your own culture to do so,” Al Yahiaoui said.

He cited recent research that found 70 per cent of international business ventures fail because of cultural misunderstandings. There are several elements to blame for failures, including: neglect of psychological issues, insensitive management, poor communication, culture and chemistry mistakes, and unclear directions, duties and responsibilities.

“There are so many cultural differences that it's hard to know what to do,” he said. “But the problems aren't normally global, religious or culturally rather they are simply between you and me, inter-personal problems.”

Al Yahiaoui stressed the biggest barrier to understanding those with differences remains a hesitancy to deviate from our personal beliefs and values.

The lecture was a part of the Centre for Leadership in Learning's “Teaching and Learning” seminar series.