There are lots of reasons for us to disagree, but when there is a conflict between our notions of everyday reality, that is a cultural collision. We could think of these moments as a clashing of mindsets. They’re the result of differing perspectives on matters so basic to us that we often have no idea how we reached that conclusion, don’t know that it is a conclusion, and can’t begin to articulate why we see things that way. When we’re caught making such an assumption, if pressed for a reason, we want to say, “But that’s just the way it is!” The real problem is that the person on the other side of our cultural collision feels exactly the same.
Unchecked cultural collisions can wreak untold havoc in an organization, whether they happen at the interpersonal level, the team level, or the organizational level. At whatever the level, this kind of unconscious dissonance is the primary reason up to 60% of attempted business mergers fail and organizational change efforts fall well short of expected results. Because of the deep neural patterning in individuals and the cultural patterning that takes place in organizations over time, everyone in a workplace is looking at the world through the lens of deep-rooted assumptions also known as implicit biases. And it’s not easy—in fact, it’s pretty much impossible—to get rid of them without uncovering them first.
When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind, and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. — Hugh White
In any cultural collision, these simple leadership moves are the true keys to unlocking resistance and moving toward greater cohesion and integration:
- Go deeper into the tacit assumptions you may guess are operating.
- Ask questions about the varying perceptions, especially in complex situations.
The kinds of questions you ask and the quality of your listening will determine if you can turn this moment into an opportunity for learning for everyone involved. Mindsets really are different.
In what ways can you acknowledge and respect the differences? What are possible synergies in values from which a new future can be built?