AbstractDealing with cross-cultural teams has become more common throughout the years especially inhigher education and work environments. The need to have good communication skills andeffective participation in projects is a critical aspect for the completion and quality of the projectsor tasks performed. Certain aspects such as cultural background or common interests shape thedynamics of the team to achieve the desired success. Different methods of improvingparticipation and the characteristics of the persons have been discussed in a case study wherethe goal is to highlight the ever-evolving world of team based tasks and how to achieve theoptimal outcome by involving every member of the group through effective participation.IntroductionOne of the many challenges of working in a cross-cultural team environment is adapting to thedifferent ways of communicating from all the members in the group. Effective participation fromeach of the group members becomes key in group sessions to accomplish good involvement,develop relationships within the group, and most importantly, communicate ideas in an effectiveway.
Every member must have time and feel comfortable showcasing ideas which will lead toevery participant becoming engage by the mechanics of the group. The dynamics of how a groupbehaves varies greatly depending on the background of each team member, how to deal with all Escobar 2the different personalities and have everyone contributing is a key aspect to achieve the overallteam success.Along this paper the theme of group dynamics and the interaction of the participants in crossculturalteams will be analyzed. First, a section of background theory where the focus will be onHofstede’s cultural dimensions and to a lesser extent in a series of authors trying to explain andimprove the dynamics of cross-cultural group participation. After this, a reflection from apersonal point of view from the author will be written regarding the dynamics of the groupfocusing on participation that took place in the weeks leading up to “Eyes on the Future” an eventwhich was performed for the Understanding International Grand Challenges course during thefirst quarter of the Engineering & Policy Analysis program.
Background theoryHofstede’s Cultural DimensionHofstede’s work was based on a global survey conducted by IBM in the 1960s and 1970s. The aimof this survey was to analyze the different cultural aspects through six dimensions, his work waslauded as a breakthrough in his field and has since been used as a benchmark when explainingcross-cultural communication. Hoefstede explains the difference in participation through hisbook “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the mind. Intercultural Cooperation and ItsImportance for survival” and attributes a person’s ability to participate to one key aspectregarding their culture, individualism. In the chapter I, We, and They a clear definition of thispremise is provided.
(Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, 2010)”Students in a collectivist culture will also hesitate to speak up in larger groups without ateacher present, especially if these groups are partly composed of relative strangers: outgroupmembers. This hesitation decreases in smaller groups. In a large, collectivist orculturally heterogeneous class, creating small subgroups is a way to increase studentparticipation” (Hofstede, 2010 p. 118)Another dimension that could also be used to describe interaction among peers is describe in thechapter “More Equal than others” with the argument of power distance. It could be argued that Escobar 3there is a relation between expressing thought in group environments and the power distancerelated to the nation where the participants came from. When the power distance in a nation ishigh it is likely that members of the team that come from a nation with this characteristic willaccept decision taken by others and will not argue even if they have not expressed an opinion.(Hofstede, 2010)Maleki & De Jong Clustering the dimensions of national cultureThese authors took into account the previous work by Hofstede, along with Inglehart’s WorldValue Survey and Schwartz’s Cultural Value Orientation.
The purpose of the work was to have amore concrete measure of the culture dimensions develop by Hofstede but making clusters ofdifferent aspects while disaggregating what they called the “big dimensions”. Maleki & De Jongalso used the cluster of Individualism vs Collectivism proposed by Hofstede to highlight thedifference in culture and how any given person depending on which nation grew up could havesome characteristics which are described.Tajfel & Turner Social Identity TheoryTajfel and Turner were two psychologists which greatest contribution was that they developedthe concept of Social Identity. According to the theory developed Social identity is a person’ssense of who they are based on their group membership(s) (McLeod, 2008). This groupmembership gives the person a sense of pride and self-esteem. The feeling of belonging to agroup develops an us against the world mentality depending on the group’s characteristic.
Holding prejudice of other groups while speaking glowingly about the groups that we are part isa common practice of social identity (Tajfel, 1986).Eyes on the Future eventDevelopmentFor the event the team formation was the first opportunity to work with other people. The groupI was part of was shaped by a wide range of nationalities which could be divided in two main Escobar 4groups. Dutch people representing the individualistic nation and persons from Mexico, Indonesiaand China who could be clustered in the Collective spectrum of Hofstede dimension.
The dynamicof the group was a rather complex scenario at the beginning where we had to come up with agame design. The dutch representatives started speaking and giving some of the ideas while thecollective group was listening at the beginning. This dynamic held true for the first session, thechanges started coming when the intra-group relationships were developed. Familiarities withother members of the team which were develop over the other courses and external activitiesplayed a good component on the social interaction within the group.The task in hand, which was to design a game with the objective of having the participants of thegame learn more about international grand challenges, was a rather complex but welcomingexperience.
The participation of the group for the group sessions during class hours were a bit asexpected with the “collective group” preferring to let the starring role to the dutch students. Thisdynamic change during off-class meetings were the interaction between members had morefluidity and everyone was getting comfortable talking to each other. Social Identity started to geton the scene when every peer was involved with their team which created that the teamsessentially transformed in the “groups” of Social Identity Theory. (Yuki, 2003)ResultsThe way authors such as Hofstede and Maleki & de Jong portraits the characteristics of collectivecountries is rather simple and not completely true. These authors were born and raised in anation with individualistic values, meaning that their opinions of collective nations come from anexternal point of view of the culture. Coming from a Latin-American culture a label as beingunexpressive or too quiet has been put on us. What I have learned in the past 5 months of livingin the Netherlands and what happened in the Eyes on the future event is that countries fromindividualistic countries are more expressive and want to speak their mind.
I believe that thiscould be a peculiarity of trying to overachieve and to highlight among the group meanwhilepeople coming from collective nations are prepared to listen more and take other peopleopinions into account. For the event Social Identity Theory was on display when the dummy runsfor the games were played which showcased what was portraited by Tajfel & Turner our team Escobar 5members spread around the games to play them but also to find the flaws and compared themto our own game. This resulted in people not fully focusing on what was good about other group’swork but on the potential mistakes of their games, validating the credibility of Social Identitytheory.
(Tajfel, 1986)Overall, I believe that the frictions of the team while doing this specific task were minimal andthe combination of our characteristics made us understand more about the other’s culture andforced us to learn and have a different approach while working in the task. We develop a bondwhile working on the same team which helped us become more united and also to compare ourgame with other team’s games essentially leading to the principle of Social Identity Theory wherewe have to highlight our achievements and criticize the other’s work (Yuki, 2003). At the end,even though we all come from different cultural backgrounds we still have a lot of similarities likeage, interests and some of the goals we want to achieve with this master course and that helpedus have a good group dynamic and design a game which we were comfortable delivering.Conclusions and RecommendationsCross-cultural teams trying to complete a certain task or project will always have to overcomerising communication challenges to fulfill the desired outcome, this becomes especially true ifthe group has a lot of members from several nationalities or a different cultural background. Themost important aspect to encourage effective participation is that all team members feelcomfortable with one another. Hofstede posit an ingenious way to enhance participation bymaking the group smaller, this results with the participants gaining confidence when speaking totheir peers and feeling comfortable talking and expressing their ideas (Hofstede, 2010).
Duringthe Eyes on the Future game development stage confidence was gained, especially for memberswho come from non-individualistic nations, when the group was divided because this led to smallsub-groups and everyone ended up feeling confident speaking which at the beginning hadbecome an issue for some of the members. Social identity played a key role in helping teambuildingas we look at ourselves defending our game and trying to find the flaws in the othergames that were created this principle of behavior of comparing is one characteristic that no Escobar 6matter the person’s cultural background is always present especially when dealing with acommon task but different ways of doing it.In conclusion team’s success is the final goal when dealing with a team-project, I believe thatperson’s coming from collective backgrounds are easier to assimilate the goal and trying toachieve them, while individualistic members, even though, all share a common goal, will try toconvince the other team members that their specific way of doing it is the best way to proceed.In order to achieve optimal success where every team member is contributing and having aneffective participation Hofstede’s option of dividing the team into small groups could be helpful(Hofstede, 2010).
Laura Maher in her thesis work “Strategies to Increase Participation inCooperative Learning Groups” develop ways to enhance participation. The recommendationswhen working on a group is to assign different roles for the members to increase productivity,the success in this method is by taking the personalities and cultural background to match therole that has been assigned. If the participant of the group feels connected to the role given theeffort will be greater and the overall success probability of the team to finish a project or taskwill have good odds of happening.
(Maher, 2010)Escobar 7References• Gu, Qing (2009). Learning and growing in a ‘foreign’ context: intercultural experiences ofinternational students. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education.University of Nottingham. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/03057920903115983• Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.
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