Thursday, April 16, 2015

US and THEM?

Our perception of reality may be assisted if we can wear someone else’s shoes for a moment. But firstly we should take off our shoes – our prejudices- to be able to wear other’s shoes. Then we can see how he or she views issues in a way very different from how we see it. These issues can be in social as well as business life, I would like to share here some examples of different views in different cultures:
Silence : Silence can be interpreted in different ways.  A silent reaction to a business deal would seem negative to German, American, French or Arab executives. However, East Asians and Finns find nothing wrong with silence as response.  An old Chinese proverb says “Those who do not speak; those who speak do not know”.
Trust : There are several surveys show that usually Danes, Finns and fellow Nordics have high trust level, with Germans and Japanese close behind. Britons are in the medium category. Low trust cultural groups are countries like China, Mexico, France and the Latin and Arab countries. People in these countries trust completely only who they know best. I am sure many of us are working with/in virtual teams in business environment. Do you feel  creating trustworthy relationships is a challenge in virtual teams?  Sometimes I do feel it. Integrity and competence are less visible, proficiency can be hard to verify at distance. Generally for Hispanics, Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, the lack of face to face interaction is far more serious matter. But no worries.. there are many good tips how to improve your teamwork or management skills in virtual teams regardless of your culture! Let’s discover them in one of the next posts J
Decision making : Americans love making decisions because they usually lead to action and they are action oriented. The Japanese hate making individual decisions and prefer consensus by group or team. In one of the meeting with a Japanese executive in a Japanese company which I worked in,  we were expecting him to give final decision on a project. He said his decision is ‘not to decide on this yet’. It was quite strange for me when I heard first time. But then we understood that he wanted us to complete full “Nemawashi” first, then he will decide based on feedback from other people. (Nemawashi (根回し) in Japanese means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, and so forth. – Wikipedia)
Although I do not like stereotyping, I believe we can not exist without stereotyping. Because it gives us points of reference in determining our behavior when we meet with people from different cultures. To increase our intercultural abilities, we should learn to manage those stereotypes, that is to maximize and appreciate the positive values.
Enjoy exploring more on diversity !