This past week, invited by colleagues at BBi Communications, I spoke at a conference in Madrid on the topic of managing cultural issues in virtual and global teams. The conference itself focused on support for human resources and particularly addressed challenges and services for expatriation and personnel immigration. As in so many professional gatherings, there was a plethora of exhibitors. At this event, stands advertised mobility and relocation services, insurance, intercultural expertise, and the like.
What struck me was a high level of imagination that some of the planners of these booths had exercised in presenting themselves. In particular a number of these truly reflected the local culture. For example, couple of the stands offered slices of pata negra ham and manchego cheese to promote their international services... what could be more Spanish!?
Likewise, anyone who has spent Christmastide in Spain or Cataluña will recognize the wonderful collection of characters that are likely to surround a crèche in store windows or homes. Here they were pressed into service to promote worldwide enterprise. Luckily, there was no cagatio or Trump caganer to smell up the scene...
While there was a plethora of the common stuff, pens, notebooks, bowls of chocolates and caramels, my favorite imaginative display was that of a health insurance concern that looked like a fruit and vegetable market stall, with produce from around the world. They provided healthy snacks in the form of cups of fruit salad for those who visited their stand. A healthy yum!
Our colleagues from SIETAR Spain were also there, offering to put the world into your hands via intercultural expertise, in this case, via a squeezable world that might sit on your desk inviting you to pick it up from time to time to avoid repetitive stress inflicted by mouse and keyboard overdose.
All this reminds me of how important it is for us to recognize how artifacts can both shape and express culture, and suggests that I invite you, whether or not you are planning to exhibit somewhere, to the exercise of imagining what hands-on or digestible items would creatively express who you are and what you do in the intercultural field.
They also helped me to celebrate my birthday with a rather flattering card, seeing that my hair and abs don’t quite fit the image projected.
Image: A taste of local pata negra sells international services