December 2012

December 6th, 2012 by Caitlin Morrow

Delivering Inclusion Training in Asia & Australia


Working globally; we are more alike than we think.  I recently headed up a roll out of Inclusion Training for an International Financial Services Organisation in Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo and Mumbai, we also delivered sessions for South Korea, Taipei, Shanghai and Beijing via video conference; an interesting challenge.

So, what’s the difference between working in Asia and working in the UK and Europe? Well, for a start, the food in Hong Kong is delicious and healthy and young children eat raw fish with a look of delight on their faces (this is something I actually witnessed). But culinary delights, the health of a nation and amazement aside, there is much that I learned working in this dynamic and diverse region of which Hong Kong is only one part.

Known as Asia Pacific, this region covers a large area from Mongolia and Afghanistan down to New Zealand and the Fiji Islands and everything in between. More than 4.2 billion people lived in the Asia-Pacific region in 2011, constituting 60% of the world’s population, not what I’d describe as a drop in the ocean.

So how on earth did we develop one inclusion programme for each of these diverse locations within the Asia Pacific region? It’s simple, we didn’t. We developed an outline for a session, which was agreed with our main client, and we peppered these programmes to resonate culturally with each location – no mean feat. Importantly we made adjustments once we arrived in each country and as with all our programmes, adjusted the sessions to include what we had learnt from the session before. All our programmes were delivered in English for the same two divisions of this international financial organisation and so there were key themes and principles that permeated across all locations particularly around working practices and organisational culture.

What did we have to do to ensure the success of this programme across these varied locations? For me, flexibility was the key. It’s easy to make assumptions about particular cultures, we often think we know the cultural norms of a place and sometimes we do, however remaining open minded and being willing to be proved wrong and even surprised is crucial if we are to broaden our horizons and work effectively across borders. For example, we had made the assumption that our interactive scenarios wouldn’t be an effective tool to use for a Japanese delegate group, however after working with a team of local actor/facilitators we discovered that this was not the case and in fact there were other elements of our session that we needed to adapt in order to be effective.

In the running of this programme I was fortunate enough to visit both Hong Kong and Sydney, I would have liked to visit the other countries but as we needed to deliver the training to all regions within a two and half week period, however I think only Superman (or possibly Father Christmas) could have managed that amount of travel in two and half weeks without looking and feeling like they had had their centenary. Hong Kong is an amazing city, its people friendly and open, it’s a huge financial capital and did I mention the food? English is spoken throughout Hong Kong although only 10% of the population are ex-pat and only 2% from English speaking countries; which was lucky for me (and the locals) as trying to get my mouth around Cantonese vowels was not a pretty sight or music to anybody’s ears.

This is not a region to be ignored, it’s growing at a rate of knots and defying the ongoing world financial crisis, the Asia-Pacific region maintained positive GDP growth in 2010. It’s impressive, big and bold; the region includes the only two countries in the world that have populations exceeding 1 billion: China and India. The world recognises the value of this region and its people. In 2010, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow to the Asia-Pacific region increased by 23%.

So, what does this mean for us working globally? Apart of course from a wider variety of delicious and healthy food – did I mention the food? For me, it’s about recognising our similarities, doing our homework, celebrating our differences and remaining flexible. The very same principles we need to keep in mind when working with our UK, US and European clients. Perhaps we’re more alike than we think after all?


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