Today we live and work in a globalized world. Organizations choose their human resources from a diverse and deep international talent pool. It is well established that diversity of perspective can shed new light on old and taken for granted products, processes and services. Since there is so much to be gained from a global talent pool, companies, and more specifically managers, must be equipped and confident enough to effectively coordinate international team members, maximizing productivity and minimizing frictions.
This presents managers with a challenge. Frictions arise because it is not always easy to manage people from different cultures, or systematize them for optimal productivity, since people’s actions and thinking are based on what things mean to them, and the meanings come from culture.
This course responds to this challenge. It introduces future (and possibly current) managers of multinational companies to innovative theories of intercultural processes and communication in relation to the needs of management. Course members will be encouraged to develop a basic level of intercultural competence leading to better management of diverse teams.
To do this we will work on understanding what culture is and how it works. We will reflect on why differing cultural worldviews can cause offense by studying the relationship between culture and identity.
We will debate cultural universals and cultural incommensurabilities (seemingly unavoidable culture clashes)—and strategies for overcoming them, or at least minimizing them. We will explore best practices for managing and facilitating productivity in intercultural workspaces. We will be attentive to the danger of killing creativity with too much tolerance, and thus to the need to generate constructive frictions (rather than destructive ones). Our ultimate goal is to design our own actionable best practices for producing synergy from difference and avoiding entropy.
In order to meet these goals, we will first study conflict and disagreement as logical and affective phenomena. We are going to discuss the factors trust, culture, language, power and authority, which have to be understood if we want to manage disagreement. Afterwards, we focus on elaborating best practices for managing intercultural teams. To this end, we read and discuss theoretical essays on culture and intercultural processes and communication from management literature, watch and discuss films dramatizing intercultural frictions in different contexts, and participate in (and later reflect on) field trips to Berlin businesses to learn about their experiences with a multinational workforce.
This course is for students interested in business and organization management in the context of globalization, particularly those who want to be able to operationalize teams that draw on human resources from different countries. The course is designed to be accessible and fruitful for both lower- and upper-division students.
Students should be competent in reading, writing, listening and expressing themselves orally in academic English.
Punctual attendance at all sessions; active participation (verbal and written) in all sessions; abstention from electronic device use in class; small team work; one team presentation on cultural constraints (15 mins); one team presentation on best practices (15 mins); one final paper.
A course reader will be provided at the first course meeting.