“He said that he would do it,” I thought, looking at the Google Doc for my team’s marketing analysis. The key competitors section was still empty. It was Friday afternoon, and my teammate’s contribution had been due at 11:59 a.m. EST.
I was eager to hand in the assignment so I could start off my weekend, so I asked my teammates for an update on WhatsApp, a messaging app. My Pakistani teammate replied he would do it tomorrow because it was 3 a.m. in Pakistan and he was heading to bed. On what was a Friday afternoon for me, most of my teammates were off enjoying their Friday night while others were in the early morning hours of Saturday. With another American student and I as the only ones available at the time to complete the assignment, I volunteered to finish up the report so we could hand in our group project by the deadline.
This project is part of the “International Marketing” course that I’m taking this semester at Arcadia. Through this course, I enrolled in the X-Culture program, which places students from around the world into groups to work together and experience the challenges of international business. In addition to attending lectures and reading articles for the class, I am able to apply marketing concepts to our weekly X-Culture assignments when working with my team: six students living in five different time zones.
Earlier in the semester I completed a survey that asked about my study habits and international experience. Then X-Culture set me up with students from Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, Pakistan, and the U.S.A.—all very different places with different cultures. Professor Raghu Kurthakoti recommended that the class compare the cultural work values represented by each member of our team with our own culture using Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions.
One thing about American values that is significantly different from the other countries’ is that we are highly individualistic—we look after ourselves and our immediate family. Collective societies are more loyal to their social groups. I recently noticed a clash in these values within my team.
One teammate suggested that we all give each other the same high score in the weekly team evaluations, which asked each person to rate each team member. The scores affect our individual grade for the class. Because we are a team, my teammate believed that each member of our team should receive the same rating.
Aware of our cultural differences, I was able to explain that any team member deserving of a high score should get one, but that we should each grade each other individually since some people contribute more than others. In the end, he still didn’t understand my reasoning. Luckily, the rest of the group agreed with me.
I was also very lucky that each person in my group spoke English very well. Some of my classmates discussed their difficulties with teammates who did not speak English very well and who used poor translations using Google Translate. Other classmates also struggled working with Chinese students who could not use Facebook Groups for group communication and collaboration because of the government’s Internet censorship policies.
Group projects are generally very frustrating. You have to rely on other people to get work completed. When you throw in different time zones, cultures, first languages, and physical locations, it should be a huge mess. It shouldn’t work… but it does.
My team contributes to assignments and communicates every week on Facebook and Whatsapp. It was tough getting used to the global-minded group dynamic the first few weeks. Now, we have an informal schedule of when we discuss ideas and write notes in the Google Doc, and of who transcribes the information into the final report.
These are the same struggles and work strategies that global teams use in the real world. It’s easy to read in a textbook about theories behind international business. Through applying those ideas in a program like X-Culture, I am learning more about collaborating with different types of people and how to deal with a multicultural environment.
Photo by JanetandPhil