Holding a meeting of people from different cultures

In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.

This article in the Harvard Business Review provides useful guidance. Here’s an excerpt:

Do

  • Study up on the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out in the workplace
  • Create protocols and establish norms so that your colleagues understand how meetings will run
  • Incentivize colleagues to step outside their cultural comfort zones by institutionalizing rewards around what you’re trying to motivate people to do

Don’t

  • Be hung up on how people from certain cultures are supposed to act—remember, people are capable of adapting and adjusting their cultural default
  • Force a perfect dynamic in meetings—solicit colleagues’ opinions in other venues and encourage people to provide feedback in different ways
  • Overlook the importance of team bonding—encourage colleagues to get to know each other outside of meetings so that cultural differences won’t seem as glaring

 

Recent report on world’s largest bilateral trading relationship

The United States and Canada maintain the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, one that has been strengthened over the past two decades by the approval of two major free trade agreements.

Although commercial disputes may not be quite as prominent now as they have been in the past, the two countries in recent years have engaged in difficult negotiations over items in several trade sectors, including natural resources, agricultural commodities, and intellectual property rights. (…) However, these disputes affect but a small percentage of the total goods and services exchanged.

From a recent report on Canada-U.S. Relations from the Congressional Research Service.

A bi-cultural executive

She might have three selves, but she also has two different styles. The French one, which loves these abstract ideas of freedom and the future. And the American one, with its management clichés of teamwork and listening. The two make an odd mixture.

Perhaps she herself is a miniature version of GE in France, which she says takes 20 per cent of its culture from the US and 80 per cent from France.

via FT.com

Three maps on international business

geo.worldbank.org

A mashup of Google Maps with World Bank data that gives the reader a visual entry point to browse our projects, news, statistics and public information center by country.

Business Planet

It maps online databases of the World Bank Group that support private sector-led growth and financial market development in developing countries. It features more than 20 maps that cover over 190 economies across issues like How easy it is to do business, How often firms are expected to bribe tax inspectors, and much more.

Building a Better World

A way to track the UN’s Millenium Development Goals.

Global integrity Report

Many of the world’s national governments have been plagued by charges of corruption and pervasive malfeasance over the past few decades. As a result, a number of international organizations have been created to provide information on corruption and governance trends for the policy community and the general public.

With funding from the World Bank, the Global Integrity organization produces the Global Integrity Report, which features a number of “integrity indicators”, which analyze openness, governance, and anti-corruption mechanisms for a wide range of countries. Visitors to their site can read the Report in its entirety here, and also browse through a number of media resources designed for journalists. Additionally, visitors can also learn more about the organization’s staff members and their various methodologies for compiling reports. (Internet Scout report)

But how did we get here in the first place?

Nortel Networks, the large but troubled maker of communications equipment, said on Wednesday that it would eliminate more than 3,900 jobs in Europe and North America.

About 1,000 of those positions will be shifted to lower-cost operations in Mexico, China and India. Because Nortel is still hiring in sales and marketing, the total number of layoffs may be higher than the company’s estimate for the net result, a spokesman, Jay Barta, said. (…)

The announcement is the latest in a series of staff cuts dating back to 2001. At the end of last year, Nortel, based in Toronto, had about 34,000 employees, compared with 94,500 six years ago. (NYT)

Nobel Prize: Money not the whole story

When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, Yunus said that Grameen Bank had lent nearly $6 billion over the last 30 years in loans that average $130 each. A key stipulation of the program is that its loans must be for income-producing activities, not consumption. But, perhaps more important, Grameen’s borrowers also must commit to the program’s “16 decisions,” which include family planning, educating their children, not accepting or giving dowries, and embracing “discipline, unity, courage and hard work” in all walks of life. (…)

The most important lesson from Grameen is that cultural values, even those long entrenched, can be successfully modified. Bangladesh is a Muslim country, where concepts such as charging interest or using contraception are considered “un-Islamic.” Yet, by using micro-loans as a cultural stimulus as well as an economic instrument, Yunus changes the attitudes of his fellow citizens at the grass-roots level. (…)

The operational details of Grameen are equally noteworthy. By requiring weekly payments, borrowers are constantly reminded of their obligations. The close relationship between borrowers and lenders means that they know exactly the consequences of non-repayments: other potential borrowers — often fellow villagers — will be deprived of their opportunities. Grameen’s emphasis on behavioral changes alone may indeed be more of a help in easing people out of poverty than the money itself. (…)

The Grameen Bank miracle is in using those micro-loans as a social stimulus to effect needed changes in personal behavior and cultural values. This key point is often missed by those enthusiastic in replicating the bank’s success. (International Herald Tribune)

See also: Microcredit

Don’t like the currency? Create your own

[C]onsumers in the region southeast of Munich use (the chiemgauer) to buy products as diverse as pizza, haircuts and rugs. Aimed at fostering the production and consumption of local products and services, the chiemgauer challenges the central banking orthodoxy that pumping more cash into an economy accelerates inflation and eventually harms growth.

“When people use the chiemgauer, the apple juice producer sells more bottles and the cheese maker sells more cheese,” Mr. Gelleri said. “In theory, this is not supposed to happen, but the fact is it does.”

While more than 300 million people in Europe use the euro to buy life’s essentials, a small but growing number concentrated in the German-speaking world use a proliferation of currencies with names like chiemgauer, urstromtaler, landmark, kirschblüte and kann was.

Issued by private organizations, these currencies are probably better understood as vouchers — pieces of paper that can be redeemed for goods and services at regional businesses that have agreed to accept them. (…)

Regiogeld, a German association for alternative currencies, tracks 21 such types of money in circulation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with an additional 31 in preparation. Gerhard Rösl, an economist with the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, Germany, has also
located similar experiments in Denmark, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Italy. (New York Times)