Senin, 01 April 2013

Knowledge is Power—Understanding Cultural Differences

Americans are exposed to vast amounts of information inside their organizations. From company meetings discussing overall strategy to vast data troves to dig through, information constantly flows. Except for a few minor situations where confidentiality is important, it is rare that information is not available to employees in American companies.

This is not the case in the cultures of Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC). Instead, workers withhold information because the perception is that knowledge is powerful and has great value. Knowledge is power in these countries. The idea that knowledge is power causes the workers in the BRIC countries to withhold data in order to keep their power. The rationale is that if everyone has the same knowledge, then everyone can be the boss.

Working inside these organizations reveals the angst that employees go through in attempting to gain access to information they feel would be helpful. It is simply not available unless it is absolutely necessary.

The difference shows up a myriad of ways, and the virtual communicator will see this. Be aware that knowledge sharing will be restricted and consider it as a possibility in all situations. For example, be on the lookout for people reporting information that seems to have little insight into the "why" behind decisions. This is a sign they do not know the reasons why, likely because someone withheld the information.

When trying to establish virtual communication with cultures that believe knowledge is power, problems may arise. This is especially significant for knowledge sharing tools such as wikis. Remember that there may be much stricter rules for sharing information. Because of this, it is probable that information was not available. Consider instituting an "ask policy" with international teams. "There are no stupid questions" is easy to say but hard to implement. It is even harder across cultures. Take the time to ask if anyone needs information he or she does not have. Figure out why they have not been privy to that data and change that. Understand what can and cannot be shared from the partner's perspective and keep that in mind when setting up these tool sets. To learn more about communicating effectively with BRIC countries, visit

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