Cultural values and business life: the Russian example

By Riitta Saastamoinen

Dr. Olga Kovbasyuk in the seminar

JAMK Centre for Competitiveness organized a two-day seminar ‘The Russian model of management. Myth and reality.’ on October 29-30, 2012. Dr. Olga Kovbasyuk, Professor of Intercultural Communication at Baltic Federal University (Kaliningrad, Russia), lead the participants to understand their personal cultural values as well as those of the Russian culture by using the Cultural Detective® method.

Understanding your own values and beliefs is the first step towards respecting the values of the others and to creating practices that are needed for collaborating with culturally different business partners. The exercises and discussions of the first day allowed the participants to discover their own cultural background as well as to discuss the values of the Finnish culture and other cultures presented by the very multicultural audience of the seminar.

On the second day, the five core values of the Russian culture were introduced with illustrative examples from business life, both on Russian and international level. The value of friendship, “druzhba”, concretizes for instance in how knowing people and developing personal relationships with your business partners are important factors in doing business successfully in Russia. Soulfulness, “dusha”, refers to valuing the depth of emotion and spirituality over shallowness and materialism. This is expressed, for example, by love and knowledge of poetry, art and music. Creative problem solving realizes in people’s tendency to do things “their way”, instead of following bureaucracy, rules and regulations, or standardized procedures. Fatalism refers to the common Russian belief that individuals have very little control over their life events, which is usually combined with high tolerance of uncertainty and flexibility to adapt to the given circumstances. The value of perseverance describes how stamina, persistence and ability to endure are appreciated in the Russian culture.

Via discussions and case studies, the participants learned to anticipate the possible challenges between their own and Russian core values in intercultural encounters as well as to find “cultural bridges”, skills and practices to build and support intercultural partnerships. At their best, the found solutions apply “both/and” thinking and combine different cultural perspectives to new, effective ways of working.

Dr. Olga Kovbasuyk is the Professor of Intercultural Communication at the Baltic Federal University, Kaliningrad, Russia. She has also served as a president for the Higher Education Teaching and Learning International Association. Dr. Kovbasyuk is a certified cross-cultural trainer and founder of the Global Learning Center in Kaliningrad, Russia, and the co-founder of the Institute for Meaning Centered Education.