Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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Making creativity and innovation happen

9.4 The challenge of culture

The ideas put forward by Khanna and Saxenian confirm that culture plays a critical role in determining the success of many approaches to management and innovation. One of the leading thinkers in the field of national culture is Erin Meyer who develops her ideas and explains the culture map approach in the following video in Activity 10.

Activity 10 How to lead a successful global team

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the video below. Whilst watching consider how relevant Erin Meyer’s ideas are to your organisation or context.

Download this video clip.Video player: bb842_openlearn_235453.mp4
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Companies can boost the effectiveness of global teams by helping their team leaders to understand the concept of cultural relativity. To give an example, I work with a team that was made up with French and British people. And when I asked the British what's it like to work with the French, they complained. They're always late. They're really disorganised. They're always chaotic.
A little bit later, a group from India joined the same team. And the Indians complained that the French were overly structured. They were inadaptable. They were so focused on the punctuality that it left them inflexible. When you're leading a global team, you have to understand all of these complex perceptions that may be impacting the team's effectiveness so that you can manage it.
When companies are building global teams, they need to prepare those team members to understand how their own cultural biases are impacting the team interaction. I worked with a global team a while ago where I had all of these Americans and a couple of Malaysians on the team. And the Americans were doing all of the talking, and the Malaysians never spoke up. When I spoke with the Americans, they said, well, these Malaysians, they are shy, and they have nothing to contribute.
And then when I spoke to the Malaysians, they said, it's so difficult to be a part of this team because the Americans are constantly interrupting each other, and there's never a space for us to get our voice in edgewise. So this is something that is deeply cultural. When should we speak? And when should we be quiet? And if the team understands this simple difference, they can reorganise the way the meetings are led so that they all have an opportunity to speak up.
If you're looking for a candidate to move to another country, don't judge them solely on experience. Instead, try asking them a question like, what was it that they learned about the last culture that they were living in? If they tell you something like, oh, well, in that culture, they're always late, and they're really inefficient, and they're very hierarchical, that's a sign they're probably not ready for another expatriation.
But if they tell you something like, well, when I first moved to that country, I found it frustrating that they were always deferring to my opinions, but after awhile, I came to see the beauty in that type of system and that it was so much more efficient than what I was used to at home. If you have someone who can give you that kind of answer, you know they're ready to move to another country.
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is not preparing their leaders to lead effectively in this very complex, multicultural world. I worked with a Dutch Brewing Company who purchased a large operation in Mexico. In the Netherlands, one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, people are very-- well, they see the boss as being one of equal, a facilitator among the team. And in Mexico, people are taught from a young age to defer more to authority, to show more respect to that authority figure.
Now we had these Mexicans who are managing Dutch people. And they said managing Dutch people is absolutely incredible because they do not care at all that I am the boss. I go into these meetings. I have my strategy. I'm trying to roll out my plan. But they're contradicting me. They're challenging me. They're taking my ideas in other directions. Sometimes, I just want to get down on my knees and say, please, don't forget that I'm the boss.
So this is really complicated in today's global economy. It's not enough to know how to lead the Mexican way or the Dutch way. Our leaders need to be flexible enough to adapt their style, to motivate whoever they're leading and no matter which cultural context that might be.


End transcript
How to Lead a Successful Global Team © 2014 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. No reproduction is permitted in whole or part without written permission of PwC. “strategy+business” is a trademark of PwC.
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There are many ways to diagnose and understand culture, yet Meyer makes an important contribution by synthesising a number of different perspectives. Rather than being based on just one single factor, cultural differences are highly complex and multi-faceted. While this can sometimes make the differences harder to understand and accommodate, it also makes them much more intriguing!

In the final section you will draw together many of the key points raised so far in this course and consider how you might take a more strategic approach to innovation.


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