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  • David Donaldson

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

The proverb “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” has been around – according to Wikipedia which might be the best place to get “a little knowledge” – since 1700s. I have experienced its truth often: The first home we bought had an extension out the front, increasing the living room space by 50%. The opening and archway were finished well, looked good and trimmed tastefully. After a year or two, we wanted to update the space, and had a contractor in to do some work. He discovered that the well-finished opening had undercut a bearing wall. “The external siding is the only thing holding this house together!” he said. What we thought what was going to be a dry-wall and paint job, turned out to be a beam and post re-construction.


The saying applies to cross cultural engagement. The video expresses it well. The man had a reason to talk to the Korean jogger: maybe just being friendly, or maybe wanting a date out of the conversation. In Cultural Intelligence terms he had motivation. Further, he had a bit of knowledge (not much, as it turned out), but just enough to get him into trouble.

Many businesses have Diversity and Inclusion programs which are supposed to give employees the skills and tools to be “inclusive” and “sensitive”. May I suggest (as does Glen Llopis in Forbes Magazine) that many of these programs fall short; they have some motivation and give some knowledge – a dangerous thing.

The full plan of CQ is Motivation, Drive then Strategy (for intelligent cross-cultural engagement) and Action (identifiable and intentional change of behaviour.)

During this time of forced distancing and, perhaps, introspection, evaluation and strategic planning, fill out your D&I program with a robust Cross cultural engagement component.

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