Do Canadians Have an Advantage in International Business?

Those Canadians with multicultural roots could find the ball to be in their court, as they belong to more than one social and cultural group.

Cross-cultural management

 In the article “Cross-Cultural Management and Organizational Performance: A Content Analysis Perspective”,  Sultana et al., explain that “diversity can be understood as a scale at three levels: the internal dimensions, external dimensions and organizational dimensions”. The internal dimensions refer to our inner experiences, such as emotions, feelings and thoughts. The external dimensions include family, spouses, religion and other affairs.

 What does it take to lead a group of culturally diverse individuals, perhaps differing from yourself? According to the authors of the article, it is excellent leadership qualities.

 “Leadership is one of the leading determinants of the management of cultural diversity,” writes Sultana et al. “It is also necessary to have a transformative leadership position to bring the seeds of cultural diversity.”

 If leaders put these methods into practice, they’ll need to fulfill certain requirements. Besides a willingness to let go of stereotypes, Sultana et al., state that it requires “a long-term policy focusing communication, organizational culture, leadership influence and so on”.

Nardon explains that blatantly ignoring cultural differences will not lead to success. Acting under the presumptions that we are all “the same” will lead to complications. Our differences cross-culturally must be recognized and understood to fully integrate cultures into harmonious groups.

“Leadership is important because we need to be able to take advantage of cultural diversity,” Nardon says. “But also not be paralyzed by the challenges.”

Mark Walsh, a trainer in Cultural Integration, questions the same topic.

“What are the fundamental variables in which cultures differ?” asks Walsh. “If we can understand these, than whatever culture you go to, you can realize pretty quickly what are the important things.”

Walsh was one minute late for a business appointment in Switzerland and was told off. If he was in Britain, however, his lateness may not have posed as much of a problem. Once again, it comes down to more than a person’s nationality – but the individual’s cultural awareness.

 Put into Practice

 We’ve read about the theories. How about when it is actually put into practice? Does pro-diversity work? Are Canadian companies are trying it out?

In 2007, Scotiabank worked on a project to promote multiculturalism. An article written by Ora Morison for The Globe and Mail, Sotiabank “determined there is a growing need and opportunity to better serve the needs of Canada’s multicultural communities, particularly the newcomer segment.”

The bank isn’t alone in its efforts. The Canadian military, specifically in Vancouver, is taking this approach as well. Chuck Chiang wrote an article for the Vancouver Sun, addressing this phenomenon.

“The navy is looking to step up its recruitment efforts in Canada’s ethnic minority communities,” Chiang writes. “And with Vancouver’s Chinatown as the backdrop of the announcement, it appears Ottawa is launching its efforts with the Chinese-Canadian community.”

These two organizations, though different in purpose, appears to be embracing pro-diversity. They are including minorities and immigrants in their projects. This type of involvement in corporate events may facilitate communication between cultures. Think about it: assume you went to China, and saw that Canadians were being treated fairly. It is possible that this could affect how included you felt.

To truly call yourself a culturally aware person in Canada, is it not necessary to be aware of the cultures surrounding you? In 2004, Mina Shum said yes to this question.

Shum, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker, speaks to this reality in an interview. “The reason it is important for me to have Chinese faces [in my films] is because we need a truer representation of the world,” Shum explains.

Show more