Intercultural collaboration: The secret to unlocking innovation and growth

Understand everyone’s goals and work together to achieve them Click To Tweet

According to the Harvard Business Review, “diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth. ”  Because of technology allows us to communicate instantly, everyone can access diversity.

The world is becoming a global village, largely because we no longer need to spend hours, weeks, months or more transmitting messages. We can access information and people within seconds, allowing us to build companies, teams, and relationships with those that used to be unreachable.  This phenomenon is a game changer for social entrepreneurs and professionals.

If one does not consider the interconnectivity of the world and the need for diverse teams, one will fall behind and miss economic and social opportunities.  

For those who recognize this and seek to diversify partners and scale global businesses, it is crucial that we understand our ingrained mindsets surrounding our work habits, our communications skills and our overall view of success that come from the environment we grew up in.

Often, we do not even realize that we are behaving in a way that hinders our success, even when we have the best intentions.

I have done a lot of work promoting mutually beneficial relationships between Africans and Americans. During this time, I saw some of the major challenges that crop up in our intercultural relations stem from different communications habits.

For example, certain cultures rely heavily on writing, whereas others communicate verbally. The frequency of communication can also be affected by the environment, tone, vocabulary or communication methods used.

In certain contexts, different methods of communication are preferred- in an American office, email is the go-to, even when you could walk down the hall and ask a question in person.

However, in the offices I worked at in Senegal, if I needed anything, I took a walk to my colleague’s desk, chatted about family, the weather, the latest wrestling match, and only then asked about my work needs.  

In order to succeed in our globalizing world, the most important thing to do is increase your cultural knowledge of your collaborators. Certain aspects are relatively easy to learn- norms surrounding work attire, greetings in the local language, gestures/body language, or religious belief, for example.

Others take more time to truly understand intricacies such as social classes/ethnicities, relationship with authority figures, gender/family roles, work ethic and office behavior.  

Before my trip to Ghana last August, I made sure to do some basic research on culture, customs, and linguistics, but also knew I needed to continue to ask questions and joke respectfully with people during my stay to be better prepared to collaborate professionally and personally with Ghanaians.

Increasing cultural knowledge and working on intercultural awareness are actions to take to ensure you are building the most successful, inclusive, financially solid and sustainable programs with the top talent the world can offer.   

 

Furthermore, it is crucial to establish trust in any relationship.   A trust model dedicated to intercultural teams is based on ten dimensions; competence,  compatibility, goodwill, integrity, predictability, well-being, inclusion, openness with information, accessibility, and reciprocity.

Entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation by creating inclusive teams Click To Tweet

There are many ways to build this trust, paying special attention to which methods to employ given the nature of the team, be it in person, remote or a hybrid.

As I build Baobab Consulting, where most of our relationships are virtual, I mostly use WhatsApp, social media, Google Drive and email to share information and create team culture, but I take every opportunity to meet face to face to establish that physical connection, which in many cultures, plays a crucial role.

Even with cultural awareness and trust, there still may be some lingering stereotypes or assumptions we carry that we are unaware of. Let us not presume that two North Americans or two Africans on a team understand each other.

A woman from Senegal will have a completely different vantage point than a man from Zimbabwe, just as a woman from New York City’s will be different from a male colleague from Montreal. Even if there are some similarities between them that may help them bond faster, it is still necessary to follow the same procedures of intercultural awareness.

At the end of the day, no matter where you fall on the intercultural awareness spectrum, how many languages you speak, or how many cultural events you have been to, you must remember that personality can also play a role.

Sometimes, we work better with certain personality types and struggle with others, so this should not be discounted as you work together and build team dynamics. Take a free version of the Myers Briggs test to learn more about your personality and that of your teammates.

By creating inclusive teams and encouraging them to fearlessly and meaningfully contribute, entrepreneurs will see true disruptive innovation. To do that, we must make sure the right steps are taken to ensure that everyone feels taken care of, considered, understood and respected.

There will always be some level of tension and even conflict when we work together, but if we assume all parties have good intentions,  these snafus can be overlooked. Always remember the true mission of what you are doing. Understand everyone’s goals and work together to achieve them.


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Trecia Makhubele: It is ordinary South Africans that will create jobs in SA

Bohochic was born from a desperate need for financial stability Click To Tweet

Born in rural Mpumalanga in a small town called Bushbuckridge, Trecia Makhubele, co-founder of Bohochic, is a graduate from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls. In 2016, she went on to achieve her undergraduate degree in Politics and international studies.

Trecia is currently a Penultimate year law student at Rhodes University where she tutors law first-yearear students and works as a law library assistant. Trecia is passionate about entrepreneurship and believes that it is ordinary South Africans that will be able to create jobs in SA.

SLA contributor Jeanette Nkwana interviewed this young South African entrepreneur, this is how it went.


How did Bohochic and your partnership with the co-founder come about?

Bohochic, like most black owned businesses in SA, was born from a desperate need for financial stability. Rue, my friend and co-founder, and I found it difficult to go to residence trips to buy appropriate clothing for court visits and textbooks because our parents were just not able to provide us with everything that we needed.

Instead of accepting our financial situation, we each started our own businesses, mine being Spiritus Mundi designs and Rue’s being Rude-soul chains, making jewellery. However,separately we were not making enough money to sustain ourselves. We then looked at trends and realised there was a growing fascination for crochet clothing. Having had basic crochet skills, we read blog posts and watched YouTube videos and soon we had a couple of designs. Once we were confident enough with the idea, we abandoned our businesses and used their respective profits to start Bohochic.

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What are some of the challenges of working with a partner and how do you personally deal with them?

For some reason, we both work really well together and have never had any major fights to date. I think it’s all about finding someone you have a good chemistry with. Both Rue and I luckily found that in each other.

'Good chemistry is important in a partnership - Trecia Makhubele' Click To Tweet

Another reason we hardly face any challenges in this partnership is the consistent brutal honesty between us. If for example, someone makes something ugly, the other is not afraid to speak up. The receiving party does not take it personally either. It simply becomes a laughing matter! This is perhaps due to the fact that we are also friends and thus know each other well.

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You value your academic career, how do you deal with the pressures coming from school and entrepreneurship?

We made a pact that no matter how big Bohochic gets, we would not let it take up more space in our lives than our academics. At the beginning our timetables allowed us to split our times to ensure our academic lives did not suffer. Of late, the business has become too big as we are now doing post-graduate studies which requires more of our time.

This has. undoubtedly, put a lot of pressure on both of us. We have decided to start a skills development programme in Grahamstown which allows us to teach a number of people how to crochet so that they can eventually come on board as our employees and do the actual crocheting. This will lessen our burden of making each order and help families like our own by way of job creation.

Bohochic is more than a brand dedicated to making money, we want to uplift our communities Click To Tweet

You are also a YouTuber, how has this helped with the success of Bohochic?

Bohochic is more than just a brand dedicated to making money. It is about showing young people like ourselves that social media can be used to uplift ourselves and communities.

Through our tutorials and videos, we hope to get people thinking. We want to show them that there are awesome business ideas that do not require large sums of money to execute. We have been able to fulfill this mandate through our YouTube channel as most of our viewers are students like ourselves.

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What is the most fulfilling thing about what you do?

The financial independence.

Nothing is more fulfilling than being able to buy a bus ticket to school or that ridiculously expensive textbook without having to put pressure on our families.

What do you think your customers value most about Bohochic?

The creativity that goes into the products we make. We do not just make crochet tops, we take the time to research and see what people are into and translate that into each crochet item.

Bohochic looking to expand from crochet tops and chokers to Bohochic Kids and Home. Click To Tweet

What can we look forward to from Bohochic this year?

Growth, lots of it. We have dedicated so much time to improving our craft. This year we will see the finalization and launch of Bohochic Kids and Bohochic Home.


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