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Critical Incidence Analysis in Cross-Cultural Management MSC 862 Take-Home Assignment, Professor S. Tamer Cavusgil Most of us have experienced a situation where, in a cross-cultural setting, we found the behavior of a foreign national hard to explain. We perceived this behavior to be odd, unusual, or perhaps improper. As a result, we may have felt anger, frustration, or at least felt uncomfortable and awkward. It is likely that this state of affairs interfered with our ability to interact effectively with the foreign national, and maybe even led to a breakdown in communication. That we tend to view other cultures through our own is a well-accepted human trait. We accept our own culture and its ways as the norm—everything else may seem strange to us. Our acceptance of our own culture also tends to condition how we react to different behavior, systems, or values. This sub-conscious reference to our own way of doing things is known as Self-Reference Criterion. Understanding this phenomenon is an effective first step in avoiding cultural bias — avoid ethnocentric reactions. Critical Incidence Analysis encourages a more objective reaction to cultural differences by helping us develop empathy for other points of view. It may be attempted in a number of steps as follows: 1. First, identify the situations where you need to be culturally aware to interact effectively with your business partners from another culture. These may include socializing, building trust, negotiations, arrival to meetings, legal agreements, formality, and so on. 2. When confronted with a “different” behavior, discipline yourself not to make value judgments. Instead define the situation or problem in terms of the foreign culture traits, habits, and norms. Simply make observations and gather objective information. This way, you will be isolating the self-reference criterion influence in the problem. 3. Learn to make a variety of interpretations of the foreign national’s behavior, to weight the probabilities of each, to select the most likely interpretation, and then formulate your own response. By doing so, you will have reacted to the situation without the self-reference criterion, and hopefully produced the optimum response. 4. Learn from this process, and improve continually. Remember also that cross-cultural empathy—and success in international business—can be greatly enhanced by acquiring factual knowledge about your partners. This includes political and economic background of the country, the human profile (social norms, values, behavior, traditions, etc.), history as well as current national affairs, and their perceptions of other cultures. Assignment: Using the approach suggested by the Critical Incidence Analysis, define a situation that you or someone else has experienced that led to a cross-cultural misunderstanding. Explain what actually happened, and how a more culturally- sensitive response may have been possible if Critical Incidence Analysis were used.
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