There are occasions when intercultural management and international business share the same platform. Both share a concern with aligning business practices with cultural norms, with accurately assessing those norms, with adjusting to and influencing those norms, and so on. The two sub-fields of management are however significantly different in many ways. International business views culture from the perspective of an environment that faces an organization. Intercultural management views culture both within the organization and externally impinging on that organization. For international business, culture and its consequences make up only one dimension of the many dimensions that are stressed. The other dimensions international business specifically examines include the external political environment, the external legal environment, the external economic environment, governmental influences, world financial institutions, and the strategic management of various functional systems.
It can be argued that international business employs a compartmentalized approach. The separate strands examined, like the external political environment, or world financial systems, are not always integrated to reflect the reality of organizational life. To be sure, the global manager does require an in-depth understanding of the various strands that constitute international business. This would be a necessary condition for effectiveness. Skills in intercultural management would be the sufficient condition.
Intercultural management, when compared with international business, is integrative in its approach. It also places a strong emphasis on skills development, since intercultural management has borrowed substantially from the behavioural sciences. It is founded on top management commitment, and can have no existence without that commitment. Thus only in companies with a culture that strongly upholds intercultural management can the latter succeed. All employees are thus expected to possess values that are compatible with the tenets of intercultural management.
Knowledge about international business is not tantamount to skill in executing the precepts of intercultural management. Intercultural management is actionable . The actions or behaviour have then to be assessed to ascertain whether they bring people together in compatible associations, or result in conflict. The underlying theme is to find points of commonality that enable people to work together and enjoy those work associations. That is how people work together in most contexts. The same is possible in a multicultural context if people operate with enlightened minds, free of prejudice. The key to success in intercultural management is openness of the mind. Organizations have to discerningly select appropriate employees. They also have to ensure that those employees' skills and abilities are developed with the focus being individual managers, as Bartlett and Ghoshal (1999) have pointed out. Intercultural management requires individual managers to develop and use a 'matrix of flexible perspectives', which is its essence.
This also constitutes a point of departure for intercultural management from international business: that emphasis is placed on the development and enhancement of individual skills and attributes. International business, by contrast, places a lot of emphasis on corporate strategy, and in a sense culture follows strategy here. Intercultural management also formulates strategies that reflect its precepts. However, it does not stop with that. All organizational systems are designed to reflect the precepts of intercultural management.