IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference the most important global conference for Business English http://www.besig.org 18 – 20 November 2011 Plenary by Jeremy Comfort What’s culture got to do with business? Supporting our learners in a complex worldIn this talk, I will explore what we mean by intercultural competence and how wemake it relevant for our Business English learners. http://www.iatefl.orgStarting with knowledge, it is important to distinguish between briefing on aparticular culture and understanding/preparedness for working with and in anyculture. For business people understanding and developing organisational cultures isoften much more relevant than focusing on national cultures. Secondly, what are the skills that our learners need to add? Above all they need to become better at observing, reflecting and learning. Busy people rarely find time for this distancing, decentering or what I call mindfulness. However it is fundamental to getting the right balance between adapting to a new culture and having confidence Sponsor: in what you bring from your culture. Companies choose people for international assignments and roles for both reasons. They need to be confident that they have the pull skills that allow them to adapt (listening, observing, perceiving) as well as the push skills to operate successfully in tough and ambiguous environments (autonomy, influencing skills).Thirdly, and most importantly our attitude towards difference is fundamental. It maynot fit with the target-driven agenda of our participants but we need to convince themof the value of diversity. Companies pride themselves on having inclusive and vibrantcultures but they also need to make them open – curious about other cultures –seeing cultural diversity as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Venue:Jeremy Comfort helped to found York Associates more than 30 years ago. He hasdeveloped approaches and materials for language, communication, intercultural andinternational leadership training. He has published widely in these four areas, mostrecently The Mindful International Manager (Kogan Page 2010). He works closelywith major multinationals and also businesses which have just started the process ofinternationalising. He created and now facilitates the DPI accreditation seminarswhich are available online as well as face-to-face.