THE INTERCULTURAL APPROACH TO LEARNING: FROM THE ETHICS OF RESPECT TO THE LEARNING ORGANIZATION OF THE FUTURE
Globalization trends are affecting our diversity and our different cultures and languages. This tendency towards homogenization and a common culture in international organizations impacts directly on professional training policies and programs and can be detrimental to a healthy working environment since it somehow negates the right to be different.
It is now proven that multicultural organizations are more creative, more responsive to change and certainly better suited to rapid changes in societies and economies.
The former models of corporate culture, based on the one dominant culture, generally Anglo-Saxon, along with English as the lingua franca, generally adopted by any self-respecting organization, are floundering and it is time to invent new models.
The multicultural, multilingual organization is the "learning organization" of the future. Drastic changes in the balance of economic power, the indebtedness of formerly rich countries along with the rapid rise of new and unique organizational models require rethinking the way we learn.
We need to learn from each other, from each other's values, customs and beliefs. We need to learn each other's language and about each other's cultural heritage. Respect, Interaction, Curiosity and Humility (RICH) are the essential guidelines in fostering new "organizational communities". These organizational communities may one day completely replace what we today know as corporate culture.
Professional training is the first step in building these "organizational communities". The learning approaches needed to accompany these multicultural and multilingual organizations must integrate so many more dimensions than the standardized, formatted methods we have been using for so many years. To learn a foreign language now means sharing your own language with the other learners so that the learning process is exponentially enhanced. To learn about a foreign culture or different ways of working now requires sharing your own habits with other learners from other cultures and thus the learning process is once again de-multiplied. The wealth in new ideas and approaches emerging from these learning communities should benefit everyone in the organization and thus necessitates a new type of trainer and/or facilitator.
In this presentation, the 4-year experience of the Agence Iter France in creating and running an Intercultural Language Learning Program (ILLP) for the ITER project (research on fusion power with 29 different nationalities and over 40 different languages) and training newly-recruited staff to accommodate to a multicultural environment, will be used as an example of how to apply these new training concepts to an international training program.