Interculturalism begins at home

October 2nd, 2007 Fay

“When we think about globalisation and intercultural relations we tend to think of doing business across the world but companies are just as likely to find that interculturalism is happening here within their own organisation.” Peter Casebow, Chief Executive, *

We’re sitting in Peter Casebow’s smart new office in Dundee Streetpcasebow talking about the changing world of business. The view from his boardroom window shows just how quickly Scotland’s capital is growing with the latest development along the Union Canal.
In seven years since Peter moved from the Royal Bank of Scotland he has seen Edinburgh’s boom reflected in a rapidly expanding service sector. * is a good example with 170 clients across 26 countries and a recent expansion in Canada.

Clients logging on to GP’s online training resources tend to be managers and leaders looking for answers, help and support with their management and leadership challenges. “We are here to help people perform better.”

Increasingly, Peter says, managers must be able to understand social attitudes of a more culturally diverse workforce who are likely to come from across Europe as well as the Far East. “Basically it is always about people. Whatever business you are in, your ability to grow and develop in the outside world depends on how well people are able to function within your organisation.”

Body language and other essentials

Good briefing is essential to understanding subtle differences in intercultural communication. And differences are not always so subtle.

“I recently heard a brilliant example from a British Army officer stationed in Afghanistan who has learned that Afghan people display trust by taking you by the hand and holding your hand as you walk and talk. That is so totally alien to our culture, especially the macho culture of a soldier, but it is vital to understand the importance of such gestures in building trust and empathy.”

* literature is full of intriguing intercultural insight. But ultimately there is no substitute for meeting and mingling with people to overcome stereotypes and prejudices. As former head of communications strategy for RBS, Peter Casebow quickly learned to assess the culture of a local branch by the human welcome he received in the front office. “What kind of greeting did I get? Did people look up and smile?”

He believes people make the same judgement about cities. “In a sense the culture of a city shows in the kind of energy you find in public spaces. If the city centre is full of life and diversity that must help to create a sense of community and better understanding because it is a place where people are happy to meet and mingle.”

Thanks to * for sponsoring equipment and materials. In fact their allweather cover was so effective the sun shone on Castle Street for the FEAST performance!

Entry Filed under: Business profiles


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