Cultural Intelligence – a requisite competency for international projects


Dragons, Camels and Kangaroos

A Series on Cultural Intelligence for Programme and Project Management

Article 1 in the series ‘Dragons, Camels and Kangaroos’

Bill Young

Melbourne, Australia and Beijing, China

Editor’s note: When you read this title your first question might be: What is the association between these disparate creatures (mythical and real)? The less complex answer is, they are symbolic and immediately conjure up ideas of what they possibly represent. Dragons perhaps China; Camels the Middle East and parts of Africa; Kangaroos, Australia. What has this got to do with the price of fish in Hong Kong! The explanation will be in our series on international cultures.

Bill Young is a part time Professor at Beijing’s Jiaotong University. He lectures in international business management including courses he has developed in cultural dimensions. After three decades of delivering projects globally and with strong experience in international joint ventures he is convinced that there is a much greater need for the development of Cultural Intelligence.

In this series Young discusses aspects of local and national cultures in the context of how they impact international business and project management. The series deals with contemporary culture in the global business environment and explores Cultural Dimensions and how they can be utilised to bring about greater project and business success. The series will include articles focused on different national cultures and how through building understanding of the cultures can make a substantial difference to business success. Article 1: Cultural Intelligence – a requisite competency for international projects outlines why this topic is important.

Cultural Intelligence –

a requisite competency for international projects

Is cultural intelligence really that important? After all there are many key skills that project and business professionals need to possess to succeed in today’s chaotic and competitive corporate world. Culture by its ubiquitous nature is a core element that features subtly across all decision making. Through research and involvement with international business ventures the author has found cultural misunderstanding can have a substantial yet often insufficiently recognized adverse influence on business and Project success.

Definitions or descriptions of national cultures commonly refer to cultivation or improvement and the fulfillment or encompassment of national aspirations or ideals.  According to Lederach1, ‘Culture is the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them’. Or described by Hofstede2 culture is, ‘The collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another’. Category here referring to nations, regions, ethnicities, occupations, and organizations, etc. Hofstede’s programming process, or culturalisation commences at a very early age and lasts into adulthood. Shaped by parents, other elders, siblings, friends, and the social and physical environment people are born into; its history, level of wealth or poverty, safety, artistic creativity and technology.

Culture strongly influences the way people think, feel, and act, and hence shapes behavior and practices both as individuals and within communities…


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About the Author

bill-young-bioflag-australiaBill Young

PhD, MBA, M.Eng,B.Eng, CPPD, FIEAust, FAIPM.

President and initiator of the Asia Pacific Federation of Project Management (www.apfpm.org) (2010 – current).

Former President (2007-11) Australian Institute of Project Management.

CEO (1985 – current) PMS Project Management Services P/L

Director (2005 – current) of Professional Solutions Australia Limited

Based in: Melbourne and Beijing: <[email protected]>.

Bill has worked for 31 years in engineering, business, and project management responsible for a diverse range of chemical processing and mining developments. He has worked in Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.

After completing a number of Projects in China since 2005, he moved to China with his family in 2009.  He is a consultant and entrepreneur, and a Professor (part time) for the School of Mechanical & Electronic Control Engineering, Beijing Jiaotong University.