Seven videos. Twenty-five mins. Why CI is the optimal support.
CI stands for both our organisation and the web-based resource we have developed. CI’s purpose is to help global organizations to understand the influence of culture on cross-border collaboration.
We have three guiding principles: The first principle is scale. CI is scalable. Because it is a web-based resource it can serve anyone and everyone who is interested.
The second principle is DIY – Do It Yourself. We at CI do nothing which our members can do themselves. In fact, we work to enable them to do as much themselves as possible.
The third principle is imbed. Based on our research method CI can grow in both countries and topics. We will do our best to respond quickly to the needs of our members
A Third Explanation
What happens when collaboration doesn’t work? We’re surprised. “People are people. Engineering is engineering. We all speak English. What’s the problem?”
We try to find the reasons. Typically we have one of two explanations. The other culture is incapable. Or the other culture is unwilling. Sometimes we say it’s both: incapable and unwilling.
And by the other culture we mean the people we are collaborating with. Seldom does it occur to anyone that it could be neither, that both sides are capable and willing.
And that should lead us to a third explanation, an explanation which is the most probable: that the two cultures think and work differently. Different cultures, different approaches. It’s that easy. That’s the third explanation. The real cause. Most of the time.
Frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised. If we aren’t aware of the cultural differences if we assume: “people are people, engineering is engineering, we all speak English” no one will consider that there is this third explanation.
I’ve been living and working in the U.S.-Germany space for about 25+ years. I have worked with very, very few Americans or Germans who were either incapable or unwilling.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. Americans and Germans are very capable and they are very willing. They’re just different. Different in how they think, and in how they work.
When we take a closer look at the influence of culture on our work, on collaboration, on success, we always address three questions, the same three questions and in this order:
Question 1 – Where do we differ in how we think, therefore in how we work? Differences in logics, approaches, methods, beliefs, traditions, mindsets.
Question 2 – What influence to do these differences have on on our collaboration?
Question 3 – How do we deal with the differences. In other words how do we get the differences to work for, instead of against, us?
Always those same three key questions. And in that order.
The minute we decide to make a serious effort to understand the influence of culture on our work we have decided to enter into three conversations:
First conversation is with ourselves, as individuals, in self-reflection: “How do I think, therefore act? What’s my logic, my approach? When I communicate. When I make decisions. How I lead and want to be led. How I define what makes for a good product. What a good process looks like to me.”
Second conversation is with colleagues from the same culture, in co-self-reflection: “How do we as a culture think, therefore act? What’s our logic, our approach? When we communicate. When we make decisions. How we lead and want to be led. How we define what makes for a good product. What a good process looks like to us.”
Third conversation is with colleagues from the other culture, in cross-border reflection: “Where do we as cultures think, therefore act differently?” When we communicate with each other. When we make decisions together. How we lead each other and want to be led by each other. How we define what makes for a good product, which we are developing together. How we will harmonize our internal processes.”
These are three great conversations: enriching, valuable, exciting, business-oriented, bottom-line oriented. I promise, I guaranty, once you enter into these conversations you will never want to leave them. You will see yourself, and your colleagues, with new eyes. You will be amazed.
Step 1 is Learn. CI addresses three fundamental questions: Where do we differ in how we think, therefore in how we work? What influence do these differences have on our collaboration? How can we get them to help instead of hurt collaboration? Learning about cultural differences is the starting point for discussion.
Step 2 is Discuss. As colleagues you want to understand each other. You will enter into an on-going discussion about how you think and how you work. And you will continually go deeper and broader. Discussing cultural differences is the bridge from learning to application.
Step 3 is Apply. You as colleagues will then apply that deep understanding to your work. This is about what you do and how you do it. Concretely. Specifically. Day in and day out.
Human Beings in Relationship
Three Steps. Learn. Discuss. Apply. That sounds like process thinking. In my mind’s eye I see thousands of powerpoint presentations. Going back ten to twenty years. Especially in large global companies. And especially in companies strongly influenced by engineers.
Everything was process. On the slides it all flowing from left to right. With arrows and boxes and circles. All intense and dynamic and progressing. And all of it so machine-like.
Folks this culture stuff is not about a machine. It is not about process. This is all about human beings. Yes, that’s right, human beings. The most important thing in the world. And most certainly the most important thing in any global organisation.
Human beings make things happen. Not machines. Not processes. Not words and images on a presentation slide. In fact, human beings invented all of those things: machines, processes, organisations, words and images.
You want to know what CI is all about? It’s all about human beings. It’s about you, your colleagues, your customers, your suppliers. On one level it is about the business ecosystem in which you work. “ecosystem”, there we have another one of those new words being used.
Folks, you are human beings. You are not random moving pieces in a system. You are working in a network of relationships. Let’s call it a community of relationships. community beats network. Community certainly beats system.
Three Good Things
If you ask me why or how CI is helpful to you, I have three simple answers:
First, CI will help with cross-border collaboration. It will help you and your colleagues to get the job done. You hit your numbers. You’re on schedule. Your work-results are excellent. All of that is good for the bottom-line. Which is good for you, for the team, and for the company. Folks, that alone makes CI very worthwhile to you.
Second, you will sleep better at night. And I mean this both literally and figuratively. Better collaboration means less tension, less anxiety. We all know what sleepless nights are like.
You will enjoy your work. Joy is a big word, a really big word. It goes far deeper than being happy. We all spend most of our lives working. Not with our loved ones, not with family. But instead with co-workers, with colleagues.
Why shouldn’t our work, our time together, at work, be joyful? Folks, that is a rhetorical question. The answer is: our time together should be joyful.
Third, CI will help you and your colleagues to contribute to world peace. I can imagine your response to that: “Wait, what? What was that? Is Magee some kind of do-gooder? Is he pushing some kind of whacko one-world-government?”
Yes and no. Yes, I try to do good. I am not sure how much good I have done in my life. I try. No, I am not whacko. And no, I am not pushing one-world-government. I’m not even sure what one-world-government is.
I do know this, however: if we look at the interactions between countries, between nation-states, much is not going too well, and many of the actors do not understand each other.
And that lack of understanding leads to a lot of bad stuff. You don’t have to be an expert on international affairs. You only need to open your eyes and see things as they are.
Remember, you as colleagues are all voters in the U.S., in Germany, in all of the other countries except for the countries which are not democracies. Which means that if you understand each other at the deeper level of national-culture you will better understand what your governments are doing, not doing, should be doing.
And if you have the time, you can even discuss such topics. All of this will, in turn, help you as voters to make better decisions. And with your deeper insight you can help other people to understand these complex issues.
At a minimum if you as a German hear other Germans make uninformed and unfair statements about the U.S. you can correct them right then and there. The same goes for Americans who hear uninformed and unfair statements about Germany.
Let me leave you with this one last thought: you may know that I worked in the German parliament, the Bundestag, from 1995 until end of 1999. I gained great insight into German politics, into another facet of Germany and German culture.
I can state without hesitation that the relations between the U.S. and Germany are far deeper and broader, far more intense in the private sector, in business, than they are in the government sector.
People in the public sector at the national level have very little experience or knowledge with other countries and cultures. Very little.
How could they? They have to work very hard in their country in domestic politics in order to be elected to high office or to be a high-level advisor or civil servant. Their career paths do not allow them to live or work abroad. And they are certainly not working in global teams year in and year out.
My point here is that you folks working in global teams in global companies have far more experience, insight, expertise about the interactions between counties, between cultures, between peoples, than folks working in the public sector.
So, is John Magee pushing one-world-government (whatever that is)? No. But what he is pushing for is understanding.
It is difficult to get angry at someone, and to then want to smack them, if you understand where they are coming from, if you can see things from their perspective, and also if they understand you and see things from your point of view.