By Neal Goodman, Ph.D.
How do the cultural differences between the East and the West affect the approach a Western trainer must take when designing and/or facilitating a program for Asians? Broadly speaking, the Western approach to learning, based on Plato, is one of discovering: seeking new knowledge, innovation, and change. In contrast, the Asian approach to learning and development, based on Confucius, focuses on achieving a more perfect social order based on tradition, learning the truth from a master, following the right path, and maintaining harmony between opposing realities.
One other major difference is that in Western societies, students are expected to learn to learn; instructors facilitate the learning, but the emphasis is on self-discovery and an open discussion of ideas. Conversely, Eastern students are expected to listen and learn; asking questions and “sticking out” may result in negative outcomes from both the instructor and the other students.
Training in Western cultures is likely to include dialogue between instructors and students. Students are likely to be called upon to provide their own insights and opinions. This is not the norm in Asian cultures. If an Asian student is pressured to voice an opinion to an instructor during a training session, his or her response is likely to automatically be in the affirmative in order to avoid any loss of face.
Training across cultures always requires some cultural education. Here are a few ways to attain such knowledge:
Here are a few more specific tips to help guide Westerners training Asians:
If you have any case studies or examples of best practices in training and development across cultures, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will share them with the other readers of this column. The best suggestion to this column will receive a complementary copy of a new Cultural Tendencies Diagnostic Tool.
Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at email@example.com. For more information, visit http://www.global-dynamics.com.