Wednesday, November 12, 2008

4th Interview: setting up a cross-cultural complex project consortium

1st order: The forth interview was held with the region’s general manager of a large research organization for applied sciences. It might be that he is soon involved in the establishment of a research consortium between organizations based in Europe and the Middle East. I asked him how such a project would be planned and organized. He explained that in this case the consortium would be an umbrella based on two pillars, one Arabic and one European. Each pillar would contain several organizations and is steered by one regional head organization respectively. In terms of managing this consortium a management team would be set-up again containing two heads, one representative for the Arabic part and one for the European part. Main tasks would be to organize conferences and meetings in order to bring people from the organizations together and establish contacts which hopefully lead to concerted projects. So to say the consortium project provides the infrastructure for a dialogue and sets the ground for future collaboration. Different cultures don’t seem to be a predominant issue, as long as you have each side organizing each sides’ events and the involved partners come just for a visit to meet the others.
Negotiation proceedings
I was told that collaborations, be them for doing business, projects, etc. start with a personal contact and are build on a personal contact. “You get to know the other person”. It’s rather collaboration between persons than organizations. Deciding to collaborate seldom happens after the first meeting. Usually, you have to introduce yourself and your organization in the first meeting. In the second meeting your opponent shares his visions and then in the consecutive meetings you agree on a cooperation model. (It doesn’t have to be exactly like this, but schematically this is how it works)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Understanding Arabs

1st order: Just recently I had a conversation with an Arab who explained to me the logic of Arabic societies. What are the mechanisms of social systems in Arabic countries?
- One can distinguish between two kinds of Arabs, either you belong to a tribe or not.
- The tribes are cross-border, membership is based on the father
- You will not be trusted, if you are not in a tribe. “Even if you are a citizen for 100 years”. Tribe membership guarantees trust. Trust is considered as the most important property in the region.
- The Bedouin mentality explains the “get as much as you can” attitude, because the Bedouin tribes used to live in rather humbled surroundings. The "show all what you have" attitude is a reference to the symbolism of manhood, I've been told.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

3rd Interview: love what you do, do what you love

1st order: I had my third Interview with the head of a well established communication agency in Dubai. The agency comprises 25 people all from very diverse national and cultural backgrounds, including many women. Consequently, all projects are by organizational nature very cross-cultural.
Managing Cross-Culturality and Complexity
When asking how they manage their projects I was introduced to some simple, but straight forward strategies:
1) Keep the number of people working in the organization at around or below twenty. Communication at this size is still possible via mouth-to-mouth conversations. I was told that when the organization grows larger than twenty the complexity increases dramatically. Personal interactions are no longer easy to be managed and the people get out of touch. An organization with twenty people is still the appropriate size in which each member can know what the others are doing.
2) Love what you do, do what you love. Enjoying work is an essential part in successful organization. Clients projects are chosen when someone on the team likes to work on them or not. If this is not the case, projects are refused. Just work with clients who you personally associate with.
3) National background is not of importance, what counts are the personal qualifications and capabilities. People working in the agency are of the same kind: cosmopolitan, open-minded, not restricted by cultural boarders. Multi-culture is a desired asset and advantage.
4) Women in the organization are considred as a competitive advantage for multi-tasking and integrating others.
5) No politics no prides! People in the organization are rather seen as part of a family than just working colleagues. The whole human being is of importance, going out on events, organizing get-togethers, having dinners, fostering and supporting individual development from organizational side.
On Arabic Culture and Identity
I have been told that the Arabic identity follows a cascade of family, tribe, region and then nationality. This has to be considered and is the baseline of all social actions. When it comes to Emirati in Dubai, the systems of political and business circles are much closed. Established ties are strong and relationships are regularly fostered. They tend to be long time established.