Effective Cross-Cultural Communication in Organizations

In a world where financial markets around the world are becoming increasingly interdependent and national economies rely on each other for growth in terms of trade and commerce, the need to send messages that resonate across cultural barriers is very important to establishing and maintaining relationships that can lead to corporate expansion and higher revenues. It is also the case that when governments enact foreign policies that are friendly toward nations, greater economic opportunity exists for direct foreign investment, etc. The less conflict between leaders across borders, the less need to expend great sums of money for defense and military operations.

When comparing two nations on opposite sides of the globe, the United States and Iran, an interesting dichotomy appears. Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, it appears that when it comes to all five dimensions, the two countries are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The only dimension where greater parity can be found is masculinity versus femininity, but in strikingly dissimilar social contexts. President Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of diplomatic reconciliation with nations that he felt were too often over maligned and where opportunities for meaningful dialogue were lost amid rampant rhetoric from both sides. Putting aside the fact that the Iranian regime is an authoritarian theocracy, with a history of sponsoring terrorist attacks on United States interests, Obama attempted to send a message directly to the Iranian people using modern communications technologies.

One quarter of the population in Iran is connected to the Internet, one of the highest percentages in the region. Many of these users are young people who are more educated and open-minded than the older population, and certainly more willing to engage the west than the fundamentalist hardliner factions. Only two months into his first term in office, the President decided to bypass the antagonistic clerics in charge of the government and recorded a video message wishing the people a Happy Iranian New Year, which took place in March. Knowing that the young people who accessed his clip would proliferate the content through viral video techniques, he crafted a message that paid tribute to the rich ancient history of the nation, which he knew Iranians take great pride in, and at the same time expressed a desire to put aside the disputes of the past in order to reach a more harmonious relationship in the future. This unprecedented outreach took into account the failures that characterized the interactions between the two governments, while respectfully pointing the way towards improved relations between the people, as opposed to emphasizing specific policy point differences. As a result, a significant number of Iranians identified with the substance of the message and put added pressure on their own leaders for foreign policy reform that could pave the way for the goals and aspirations articulated by the President.

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