Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Where are your friends?

In Western countries, the education system encourages individuals to think by themselves and to question everything. Some more, it rewards individual achievements; every European kid knows who is the best student of the class and many schools provide quarterly rankings. In Asia, the focus is more on the group and its relationships with all the things around. The place of each individual is among a group. You're either in my group or in an other.

Acting solo is considered weird and suspicious. Try traveling alone in Asia and you can be sure that locals will ask you first where your friends are! Asking a question or giving your opinion for example is standing out of the group. During meetings in Asia, one could hear a pin drop when comes the time of asking questions. I even remember an official meeting with some CEOs for which the organizer asked us if we wanted our questions to be asked by someone else! Since the success of the "group" as a whole comes frequently before individual achievements, you better find which group would give you the best support and plan your way in!!

To be sure you are being heard or to deal with a problem with Asians, you will need to find a person close to them to convey your message. This person must be in their group so that it has more value compared to something you would say directly. By doing so, you keep the harmony and save anyone from losing face. Similarly, if you have to get something done, especially if it requires some creativity or autonomy, you better assign a group of people to the task and choose 2 spokesmen to provide you with the results. Don’t expect much creativity and autonomy from a single Asian but ask him to work together with a colleague, assign someone responsible and let them work alone: you will be stunned by the result!

[Feel free to use and share this material for non-commercial purpose. And don't hesitate to share your experience and questions in the comments or by email; I will come back to you as quickly as possible. Happy reading!]