Cross Cultural Competence (CCC)

From cultural understanding to cross cultural competence

Cultural understanding is a necessary but insufficient component for the cultural capability needed by military personnel to meet current and future challenges. “Military personnel also need the ability to use situational cues to determine when and how culture is relevant, as well as other skills for interacting with individual members of the culture. For example, cultural knowledge may have limited utility if rigid interpersonal behavior or ethnocentric attitudes are not addressed. This ability is referred to as cross cultural competence”.

The ability to quickly and accurately comprehend, then appropriately and effectively engage individuals from distinct cultural backgrounds to achieve the desired effect.

  1. Despite not having an in-depth knowledge of the other culture, and
  2. Even though fundamental aspects of the other culture may contradict one’s own taken-for-granted assumptions/deeply-held beliefs.

Three components are necessary to provide the capabilities required to work in a foreign culture. The first component is ‘cultural knowledge’. Such knowledge begins with an awareness of one’s own culture and includes an understanding of culture and cultural differences using schemata or frameworks, progressing towards an increasingly complex understanding of the sourc­es, manifestations, and consequences of a particular culture.
The second component is ‘affect’ and includes attitudes toward other cultures and the motivation to learn about and engage with them. In this component openness and empathy are of particular importance. The third component is ‘skills’ which encompass the ability to regulate one’s own reactions in a cross-cultural setting, interpersonal skills, and the flexibility to assume the perspective of someone from a different culture.

Cross Cultural Competence

In short cross-cultural competence is a set of culture-general knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes (KSAAs) developed through education, training, and experience that provide the ability to operate effectively within any culturally complex environment. It is further augmented through the acquisition of cultural, linguistic, and regional proficiency and by its application in cross-cultural contexts.

The CCOE model

One of CIMIC’s principle tasks is collecting cultural information and transforming it by adding greater meaning as understanding deepens. Culture is a useful, yet difficult, concept to grasp. Everything is continuously influencing everything else and culture is not a static concept.

The CCOE’s model utilizes a three tier perspective approach to understand culture in a mission area and at the same time integrates the PMESII assessment tool in order to keep the model functional and practical. The three perspectives (Cultural Shaping Factors, Cultural Phenomena, and Cultural Manifestations) on culture provided by the model will help troops to understand the deeper meaning and complexity of the cultural environment. The ‘why’ (Cultural Shaping Factors and Cultural Phenomena) explain the ‘what’ (Cultural Manifestations), meaning that both the Cultural Shaping Factors and the Cultural Phenomena indicate the ways and reasons members of a certain group have adapted to life in a specific manner. This model may be applied not only to national culture, but also to organizational culture.

Integrating the PMESII domains

Culture can be identified in all of the different dimensions of PMESII. At the same time these sectors will influence culture themselves, and are manifestations of how a culture deals with the five basic problems expressed in the Cultural Phenomena.

The way a society is organized within these dimensions is a reflection of the Cultural Shaping Factors, the Cultural Phenomena and the Cultural Manifestations.Cross Cultural Competence2

The dimensions can be analyzed through the 3 cultural perspectives provided by the model. PMESII will help the integration of isolated data into a usable body of information and relationships. The three perspectives (Cultural Shaping Factors, Cultural Phenomena, Cultural Manifestations), help with the interpretation of data and information giving them new meaning in a cultural context.

Although it is obvious that the model is not intended to be a quick solution to be used in the field, it provides ways of interpreting and understanding cultural aspects in the mission area. The major point being made is that troops deployed to a particular country must try to view the host community’s culture through the lenses that its members possess naturally. Not being a member of the culture means that  outsiders will often make mistakes when attributing meaning to manifestations of that culture. It goes without saying that this is a natural learning process, but by keeping our minds open and trying to understand the deeper meaning behind behaviors, manifestations and thought processes we will find it much easier to cope with all the new information being presented to us.