Collaboration in a Multi-cultural Environment
*I’m delighted to introduce you to guest blogger, Ritu Raj of ORCHESTRATORMAIL . He is a senior executive, entrepreneur, consultant. Founder and CEO of Avasta, Wag Hotels and OrchestratorMail. Executive at TMP Worldwide, Partner at Accenture and prior to that different positions in the outsourcing market out of India. He will be our guest host on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog this Friday at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT. This is his guest post for this week’s topic.
First, let’s define collaboration-people working together on something. They could be collaborating in real-time in a meeting or using tools like Webex, or even micro-blogging. Or they could be collaborating asynchronously (not real-time) using email.
Collaboration, as we are using it, includes working together, brain storming, creating a common vision, bringing people on the same page or coordinating with each other to fulfill an objective; a mission where tasks are interdependent, or, the last category, that they are all cooperating. This sounds easy until you add each person’s understanding of the world as informed by his or her culture.
Culture is more than simply your nationality or ethnicity.
Culture, in this conversation, is not limited to different ethnicity or different countries but also the culture of east coast vs. west coast, people working in engineering firms to people working in a design firm…all of them different cultures. Even if they all speak English, they have different interpretations of what they hear.
Moving beyond the Industrial Age mindset
In the US, we have been moving from an industrial economy where it was all about personal productivity (how fast can you make a widget or bolt a nut) to a very collaborative economy. In this collaborative economy, to fulfill an outcome, you have to work with others (knowledge workers). Your personal productivity cannot fulfill the outcome and you need to learn and develop skills in collaborating with others.
Collaboration has its stumbling blocks.
In most cases, the “others” that you “have” to collaborate with are a mixture of different cultures. You cannot depend upon being a great communicator but have to start recognizing and learning how others interpret what you are saying and what are their cultural differences. I have seen many examples of this coming from India 15 years ago and working in the San Francisco Bay Area where everyone is nice and polite. Consider this scenario: Sally and Ram work for the same organization. Sally is in the Bay Area, Ram is in Bangalore, India. Sally says “Can you please send me the report as soon as possible”, Ram interprets the request as “oh, Sally is not really in a hurry for the Report.” This is an example of classic mis-coordination. The use of language carries importance.
So, the big question is how do we close the gap between the speaker’s intention and the listener’s interpretation in a multi-cultural collaborative economy?
*Consider yourself invited to discuss this topic of “Collaborating In a Multi-Cultural Environment” on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, September 30th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT so I hope you can join us. If not, please add your thoughts below.