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  • Writer's pictureNaim Ramin

Bridging Cultures, Driving Development: The Cultural Impact Scan© (CIS)

Cultural Impact's Cultural Impact Scan (CIS) is a powerful tool developed since 2020 based on the research of Dr. Asma Abdullah. It elevates cultural awareness and fosters cultural literacy for individuals and organisations, aiming to create inclusive workplaces and communities.


The CIS goes beyond self-assessment, helping individuals understand colleagues and adapt behaviours accordingly. It provides insights into cultural differences, leading to better relationships and improved outcomes.

As a valuable resource, it enables employees to

- navigate diverse cultures,

- communicate,

- collaborate,

- and connect across boundaries.

By fostering cultural intelligence, the CIS empowers individuals for success in dealing with colleagues, contributing to a more inclusive workplace.


Dr. Asma has been continuously fine-tuning her research for the past several years. She added new dimensions to take into account the significant differences of cultural perspectives between the Easterners and the Westerners.


Prior to the Cultural Impact Scan (CIS) being available as an assessment tool online, Dr. Asma has developed a cross-cultural card activity as part of her Doctoral studies with 16 cultural dimensions pairing each into 8 pairs of dimensions. Over time, the list of cultural dimensions expanded from 16 to 20 dimensions. Today, we recognize these expanded dimensions as the 10 pairs of cultural dimensions.


We were delighted to have been given an opportunity to interview her personally regarding the inception of her research journey and the implementation of the tool that is known as CIS now:


Q: What inspired you to conduct this research?

The very spark that triggered Dr. Asma in doing her research, originates from the time when she was working in ExxonMobil, an American multinational company. Over there, she noticed that the American managers have different sets of values to the local (Malaysian) managers, She was intrigued and wanted to explore further what contributes to the differences of cultural perspectives.


Prior to working in an American MNC, Dr. Asma earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology as well as a Diploma in Education from Monash University in Melbourne and right after she graduated, she returned to Malaysia right after that. She managed to secure a job in a local semi-governmental company for a few years until she secured a job position in ExxonMobil. It is fair to say that she has experienced both the locals and the Westerners' style of managing a team.


Q: What has been your academic journey that influenced you in pursuing this research?

Dr. Asma identifies herself as a "corporate anthropologist", a writer, an educator, and a learning facilitator. She graduated from University of Southern California in Los Angeles with a Master's in educational technology, and University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur with a Master's in counselling education. In 2001, she graduated with a PhD in Anthropology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.


Influenced by fellow anthropologists and social psychologists such as Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars, Dr. Asma Abdullah believed that her unique contribution stemmed from her Eastern background, where religion holds a greater emphasis. In contrast, the dimensions proposed by Anglo-European scholars are influenced by their more secular cultural backgrounds.


“Over on this side of the world, we are very much concerned about face-saving” as said by Dr. Asma. It is more common to be assigned in a group work when you are assigned in an Eastern oriented company. Shame usually takes place when mistakes made by a groupmate would affect the good name of the whole group. This differs from the Westerners where mistakes are mostly blamed on themselves only and that is when their personal guilt arises. This very fact brings forth new dimensions being added into the CIS; Religious–Secular and Shame-Guilt.


Watch the interview with Dr. Asma Abdullah regarding the utilisation of CIS as an effective tool:



Q: How has the understanding of these dimensions helped working professionals? Any significant examples of application within companies?

The CIS tool helps in recognising the extreme ends of the dimensions, since both ends of the spectrum serves its own purpose. For instance, it is important to understand the concept of Harmony and Control to manage conflict effectively in a workplace. There are times where some amount of control is needed in order to curb the issues that might arise, and there are times where harmony between the employers and employees are necessary in order to avoid conflict. The opposite spectrum of these dimensions does not dictate which ones are good and bad, but rather, gives you an understanding on what level or intensity certain dimensions need to be utilised and applied.


This is where the CIS tool proves its efficacy to provide an understanding on how to drive your own personal behaviour in order to improve the culture in the workplace as well as the productivity of the companies.


Q: So does that mean CIS also helps a company to be more culturally competent?

Well if it is used effectively, of course. The employers are able to recognise the dominant pattern of their employees in an organisation which helps the employer in deciding whether or not the policies or procedures match the dominant culture of the workplace. This helps not only the employers in successfully being much more culturally aware and competent but also boosts productivity from employees as they are able to adapt to the culture of the company.


The CIS serves as a valuable reference for understanding diverse cultural dimensions, enabling individuals and teams to gain insights into their positioning in these dimensions.


In return, the individuals are able to develop new behaviours based on their CIS results.

Culturally competent employees are able to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, which is becoming increasingly important in today's globalised world:

  1. Enhanced communication skills leading to better intercultural understanding and collaboration.

  2. Increased flexibility and improved leadership competencies to effectively manage diverse teams.

  3. Boosted productivity through inclusive practices and leveraging diverse perspectives.

  4. Improved problem-solving and innovation by harnessing the strengths of diverse backgrounds.

  5. Reduced conflict by fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace culture that embraces diversity.


By utilising the CIS, organisations can foster self-development of their employees as well as social, and cultural development within their workplace As Jason Saul explains in his book “Social Innovation Inc.”, a company's social performance impacts its profitability and productivity.


The CIS can be a strategic tool for generating positive social impact and enhancing economic value. By integrating the CIS into their practices, organisations can cultivate a more inclusive and harmonious workplace culture, resulting in long-term benefits for employees and overall company performance.


Discover how you can significantly increase your cultural awareness and foster a truly inclusive workplace culture within your organisation by reaching out to us today. Our Cultural Impact Scan© and culturally-focused programs are designed to help you develop the essential skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an increasingly diverse world. Let us help you make a positive impact and achieve greater success together.

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