The Lewis Triangle for Better Workplace Cross-Cultural Collaborations


It’s time to get down to Earth and apply the Lewis Triangle to the workplace to achieve more effective collaborations. 

There is one triangle designed to improve collaborations between people of different cultures. Just ask Richard Lewis, the British linguist who created the Lewis Triangle, a model on cross-cultural communication. Today we demonstrate the high versatility of this framework by applying it to the workplace environment.


A Simple Model That Makes Sense

The Lewis Triangle is a straightforward, fast way to understand other cultures in a workplace situation without requiring a lot of training. The Lewis Triangle posits that the world is full of diverse cultures but that they are more homogenous than one might expect.

In fact, there are only three categories, as per the cross-cultural triangle; these classifications are the triangle’s “points”. They are Multi-active, Linear-active, and Reactive. Other models on cross-cultural study, in comparison, have several more dimensions, which makes them harder to both teach and comprehend.


Applying the Lewis Triangle Sense

As different cultures have different values and behaviours, companies with a multi-cultural workforce literally cannot afford to ignore the disconnect within a team that can come from its inability to interact efficiently to complete projects. The devastating results can include a reduction in company efficiency and decline in profits.

At Connecting Perspectives, we have suggested our clients facing culture-related communication issues use the Lewis Triangle to understand different approaches to work. The goal is to improve relationships and reduce misunderstandings between team members. We have applied the basics of the Lewis Triangle to teams that are multi-cultural, as well as between people who share the same cultural background, such as Arabic culture.

We utilize the triangle framework in many exercises and simulations. The use of simulations provides a good learning experience for people as they can freely “act” without letting worries about real-life consequences restricting their behaviours.


Building Trustful Collaboration

Of course, the Lewis Triangle approach we use for improving communication within companies may be only one aspect of building trustful collaboration between team members. The exact strategy to use depends on the dynamics of your company, as every organisation is unique.

Other points we address with our clients as ways to strengthen inter-office collaborations include the use of dynamic social networks, such as desk rotation, and how to effectively using the phone (rather than email).

As for the sum of the parts of the triangle, we think it is the way we communicate that is more useful when it comes right down to it, and this “triangular” way of thinking is one that we are happy to show you in a simple training session. Let’s get our thinking out of space and back down to earth. Let’s start simplifying connections between people, starting today.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse: