“relevant for almost every university student today”

“relevant for almost every university student today”
Interview with Olof Brunninge, instructor of the Intercultural Management course.

– For whom is a course in intercultural management relevant?

I think it is relevant for almost every university student today. Students meet people from different cultures all the time, for instance foreign guest lecturers or incoming exchange students. Also, after graduation, many will have jobs where they work internationally in some way, even if they do not move abroad. Then it is critical to get along with people from other cultures in a good way.

– Is the course only suitable for business students?

We will use some examples from business organizations, and we will look into how companies can organize their international operations, but this is not only relevant for business students. Many organizations work internationally today. Public agencies, municipalities, NGOs, churches or sports clubs have contacts abroad. We will address issues related to intercultural communication that are quite generic, no matter if they happen in a commercial company or in a different organizational context.

– What are your own experiences of intercultural communication?

I’m born and raised in a bi-national family with a Swedish father and a German mother, so I have been exposed to cultural differences all my life. Then during my studies, I was an exchange student in France. In my professional life, I have been working with academic collaborations in Russia, Ethiopia and Rwanda. I’m currently responsible for a development collaboration that aims at supporting universities in Eastern Africa in setting up their own doctoral programs. 

– So you know everything about intercultural management?

Definitely not! I’m still learning all the time and I’m still experiencing surprises when I’m working with my colleagues in Africa for instance. But with many years of experience, I’m much better prepared now than I was during my time as a student. My aim is to share relevant experiences as an intercultural management practitioner with my students. 

– Is intercultural management easy?

I think we should be honest. Some people seem to suggest that we just need to mix people from different cultural backgrounds and this diversity will lead to the emergence of a creative paradise.  In reality, intercultural encounters can be quite challenging. We meet people whose behavior we find strange. Sometimes, it is even difficult to pinpoint what we find strange. But you can prepare yourself for these challenges if you are aware of them.

– What is the course going to be like? 

A big emphasis will be on the experiences of the participants. We will share experiences from intercultural encounters, and we will learn about each other’s cultures. We will also do case studies and simulations, where we discuss and even perform real-life situations how to handle challenges in intercultural management. Eventually, there will also be some theory in the course. Good theory is always practical. It helps us put our experiences into words and hence to better understand what is happening when we are exposed to a culture that is strange to us.