“Build Your Agility” by Dr. Paula Caligiuri
There’s a word that’s been floating about since the Covid-19 pandemic overtook the world: communication. Indeed, such a term already was starting to provide a new sort of traction when one applied it to workplace discourse, or statements or descriptors to what many feel is a necessary game change and paradigm shift in the way we look at workplace culture – from pay disparity to race to sexuality to opportunity. However with the sudden upheaval of all social norms and mores, the word is in danger of being reduced back to a more simplistic, literal, and dare we say inflammatory version of its burgeoning, progressive defining. Not on the watch of Dr. Paula Caligiuri, a distinguished professor of international business at Northeastern University. With the release of her new book, Build Your Agility: The Nine Competencies of Successful Global Professionals, Caligiuri argues that now more than ever – thanks to the wonders of the wide-reaching web and the concept of remote conferences – is an opportunity to continue utilizing that definition in said progressive terms, in the process honing a skillful set of communicative tools for exchanging opportunities with internationally-based third parties.
TASCA GLOBAL: http://www.tascaglobal.com/
For Caligiuri, there is a standard of behavior that should be met, a standard which – like the title of her book suggests – is broken down into nine ‘competencies’ she outlines by way of seven chapters in each part of the argument. Such tools ensure a universal way of communicating, without bias or room for misinterpretation, so that all parties present either remotely or in the literal, hypothetical ‘room’ feel respected, acknowledged, and are given the professional reverence they deserve. Caligiuri presents such statements in bell-clear, concise language, but with the analogical flair of a master storyteller. “It is often said that describing one’s own culture is like asking a fish in water to describe what it is like to swim in water,” she writes. “…The best way to learn your own cultural norms and values is to experience contextual novelty. You will be able to sense your own culture more clearly when you are in a different culture and have a point of comparison.”
The sudden introduction of technology into what used to be everyday in-person meetings, conferences, exchanges, and business pitches is an artificial implementation of what Caligiuri highlights ideologically, already laying the groundwork from which all parties involved can start and find they have literal common ground with. She also writes about the necessity to come from a place of willingness to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity compared to the standard transactional models, writing, “The greatest source of ambiguity in cross-cultural settings is an uncertainty about the unspoken assumptions being made – the things that you as an outsider cannot see – and produce behaviors you cannot easily predict or fully understand. These assumptions, rooted in cultural values, are socialized, shared, and reinforced, producing our understanding of what is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, appropriate or inappropriate, and the like.”
It’s this warm dose of empathy next to what Caligiuri advocates as an experienced professional in the fields of business that rises Build Your Agility above similarly-themed books about improving communicative techniques. After all, as Caligiuri expertly and statistically emphasizes, it does boil down to communication, but also to that word empathy.