Intercultural Training Experiencing how others think

Thirty Mercedes-Benz managers from India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Germany began their intercultural journey last Friday.
Thirty Mercedes-Benz managers from India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Germany began their intercultural journey last Friday. | Photo: Goethe-Institut, Andrea Cnyrim

Success through intercultural competence: The Goethe-Institut is enhancing its portfolio of programmes by offering intercultural training for managers. In late February, a groundbreaking course for thirty managers from Mercedes-Benz was held near Mumbai.

Arrival in Nashik, Friday, 23 February 2018, at 12:30 for the intercultural training for thirty Mercedes-Benz employees from India, Indonesia and Vietnam, and two Germans who run the sites in Indonesia and Vietnam. The participants gather in the conference room, which the trainer has carefully prepared. The hotel in which the four-hour intercultural training course will be held is one of the most popular in the region.
 
After the lunch break, the course for the Daimler managers begins. They are all familiar with intercultural communications from their daily work. For the next four hours, they will be given ideas and skills for their professional activities.

Communication is the key to success. Communication is the key to success. | Photo: Andrea Cnyrim

The deep structure of cultures

“We want something new,” Wahju Dewo from Indonesia tells us. “I am a Swabian through and through,” says Günter Häfele, “and my staff members are all Indonesians of different religions.”
 
Then, the customised training, led by Vaishali Karmarkar of the Goethe-Institut Mumbai, begins: an intercultural journey that begins with the names of the participants, quickly incorporates their own stories of cultural astonishment and alienation, lets them do exercises, then summarise the learning outcomes and presents case studies for discussion. In between, slides are shown that offer insights into the deep structure of cultures, making their origins and narratives tangible.

Experiencing how others think

For Piyush Arora, the regional director for South Asia, the most important thing was getting insights into the culturally based preferences for various management styles.

How employees interact with one another is decisive for effective teamwork. How employees interact with one another is decisive for effective teamwork. | Photo: Andrea Cnyrim
“Interculturalism was pretty new to us,” admit Ha Quoc and Doan Nguyen Thi Ngoc   from Vietnam, “but now we understand how important it is for us to explore intercultural issues more going forward.”

“For me, the most important thing is to reduce the complexity when working with my Indonesian staff,” says Günter Häfele following the workshop. “Sometimes, communicating across the boundaries of cultures is also a little like flirting: You have to sell yourself to reach the others and to get involved.”

Kuldeep Vij from India adds, “The results are longer lasting when they’re linked to situations. And there was no black-and-white logic to it. We could see how the others think, what’s important to them, how we can support them and gain their trust.”