Only children, idea exchange & global relations: Cross cultural communication
More than ever, our globalised relationships are becoming more saturated, faster paced and more relevant. Sensitivity to other cultures – and the need for innovative solutions for successful cross-cultural communication – is now a high priority on the agendas of businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs alike. In particular, our recent attendance of two events – the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) Summit and a talk by the acclaimed UK-based Chinese author Xinran (as part of the Sydney Writers Festival) – have highlighted particular challenges when approaching Chinese culture, market and innovations.
Hearing Xinran speak about her newest book, Buy Me the Sky: the remarkable truth of China’s one-child policy at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, we were intrigued by the research and storytelling techniques that she employs to discuss intimate cultural details in an international, globalised context. Born and raised in China during the Cultural Revolution but now residing in the UK, Xinran often mentioned China’s unprecedented rate of change, of the almost unfathomable differences between generations and between city and rural residents. Xinran spoke of how she attempts to visit China twice a year in order to keep up with such fast-paced changes, spread across the world’s most populous country.
For many, the disparity of new and old has brought about a generation that is vastly different from its predecessors. Whilst this could be applicable anywhere, it helps to approach work that targets the Chinese demographic without preconceptions/assumptions; to listen and allow the audience to tell us what they need and want. Overall, Xinran’s book highlights the effectiveness of a personable, intimate narrator in the act of storytelling. In particular, by writing about her own thoughts and questions, Xinran provides a gateway for readers - especially those from different cultures or demographics - to open up questions of our own.
On another hand, the discussions at CAMP raised a few issues with translating products from one culture to another. With a long and fascinating history, Chinese people are profoundly rooted in their culture and nuanced by social situations. As a result, the well-intentioned Western approach of presenting a finished product in hope of selling-out in the Chinese market hardly works. Rather, taking a human-centered design process to develop a product – while getting to know the consumer intimately – ensures that the outcomes are relevant and reduces the perception of ignorance.
The increasing number of internationally-educated, young Chinese people (who are the target market for many international ventures) relate to both their birth and adoptive cultures. The future of successful communication with “new” China is one that dances sensitively and elegantly on the complex line of East and West.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw