Earlier this month, I attended a conference where Malcolm Gladwell was the keynote speaker. Gladwell is a writer for the New Yorker and has written a number of books. Some of his books include The Tipping Point; Blink; David and Goliath; What the Dog Saw and Outliers. I have always found his books to be though provoking.
One of the concepts he spoke about at the conference was “Mysteries and Puzzles”. According to Gladwell, puzzles are areas where there is a lack of information; in other words there are bits and pieces of information available and what we are looking for is to fill in the void. As an example, consider the research on ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder; we still do not know what causes autism or how and why it manifests in some people and not others. Hence, continuing research is necessary to fill in the puzzle.
Mysteries, on the other hand exist where we have ample information and the challenge is to make sense of this in a coherent and useful manner. Consider the topic of ‘Working in Malaysia’, where there is a lot of information available. For example in Malaysia, there is great value placed on hierarchy, titles, education, qualifications, family names have a higher level of significance compared to Australia.
It’s one thing to know about hierarchy in Malaysian culture but it’s another to think about how it impacts your interactions:
• How do you recognise it in a group?
• How do you demonstrate respect?
• How do I adapt the tonality of your voice or alter your body language?
• How do you disagree politely?
I think developing Cultural Intelligence is more of a mystery rather then a puzzle – there is ample information available but it’s more about utilising the right information at the right time in the right manner to achieve the desired outcomes.