About the Gangnam Style and Culture

Seoul Marked on a Map

Have you ever wondered why the “Gangnam style” is so popular? Interestingly enough, the video as well as the dance got copied, translated, parodied, re-danced all over the world. Even among business people asked to try and dance for the purpose of team building or motivation it is very attracting and instantaneously creates a good atmosphere. How can a video suddenly become so popular? Or better, what does this tell us about culture?

Well, of course there are the new media and technologies. Everybody can instantly comment and see what is happening. Secondly, the music is sort of dragging you out of the chair, inviting you to move. And then of course there are the movements… not easy I must say 😉 it certainly requires some kind of a skill plus a lot of practice to be able to somehow try and copy the swinging legs and moving hips. But the funny thing is: although not many people actually know what the “Gangnam style” actually is or means, everybody, from young to old all around the globe seems to have the same fun watching and dancing to the various versions of the one song.

What it tells me with my intercultural communication hat is that once again it gives us a prominent example that “culture” as such, is a dynamic and flexible construct which sometimes self-organizes  itself. Nobody could have known that this video would make its way that fast to different corners of the world. It also shows how music (and on that matter also sport) is uniquely able to rally people from different backgrounds and upbringings and makes people forget, even for a short period of time, where they come from and what their problems are. Well, I will definitely keep up the practice and all I can say is: Well done PSY and thanks for making us laugh!

Thoughts about collective memory and “clouds” or Are our memories going global?

taking care

Very often, when working in multicultural teams or simply being at an international conference, I have observed that people tend to form sub-groups with others from the same nationality. I always wondered where this might be coming from. Well according to scientific views on intercultural communication, the reason for this does not have to be the language alone but the fact, that because of comparable socialization and education processes, common routines or norms are given, meaning that the context of things doesn’t need to be explained. Other people in the group have more or less the same ‘cultural background’ and behaviours are easily handled without a lot of explanation.
We also do have something called the “collective memory” which is: “(…)the shared pool of information held in the memories of two or more members of a group.” Following these thoughts, it doesn’t surprise anymore that communication between members of a group where people have a similar upbringing, is usually much more ‘noisefree’ than intercultural communication.
But: have you ever thought about what will happen to the collective memory now that we have global “clouds” available where huge amounts of data from anywhere in the world are saved and shared? Are we truly going to become “global citizens” in a couple of generations or are our national/cultural roots affirm themselves? What do you think?

Basic thoughts on communication

Binary world

Communicating in today’s environment is not easy; not only are we constantly ‘followed’ by technical devices asking for an immediate response, a mail or a call but as the global world suddenly sits with us in our living rooms and offices, intercultural exchange and dialogue has become so ‘natural’ that we tend to forget its rules. Having to juggle with so many priorities at the same time, we respond, in the best possible manner without thinking too much as our mind is already preoccupied with the next task. So it then happens, that suddenly a message that was intended as a collection of feedback – no more and no less – to be discussed on the phone at a later stage creates a reaction at the other end of the world where it was sent, which was not foreseeable by any means and not stoppable as rumors already started to spread… well, a tsumami of mails and a couple of strange feelings later we come to a point where we ask ourselves these questions: WHAT HAPPENED HERE? And: COULD THIS HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?

The answer clearly is: yes! As even though people all speak English and we are all ‘one family’ speaking virtually together at any time of the day: before sending out a message or a communication, the ramifications should be thought of. No time doesn’t mean no mindful e-mailing! Well, let’s print this out and put it up on a prominent place so that it can be seen… taking the time to think things through actually saves you time that you need to spend afterwards to repair the broken vase after the fact! Have an excellent evening, morning, day, Jenny

What it takes to lead multicultural teams

earth

Today I want to write a short note about leadership in international teams as I get a lot of questions about what is important, what works and what not.

Well, one thing is for sure: leading teams composed of members from the whole world is certainly a lot of fun but also takes a lot of effort so that it can function in the right way, meaning that team members can realise their full potential and don’t feel threatened, not understood or unwell.

In a multicultural team it is very important that different opinions, views, understandings are always:

  • addressed,
  • explained and
  • understood.

By operating that way, you ensure that problems are discussed directly when they arise, so that no frictions – in the worst case leading to dysfunctional teams – can arise. What you are trying to do is to achieve the best possible synergies, not the adaptation of some individuals to the ideas and concepts of the others (this would create an asymmetric team dynamic) or even the resistance of some team members to the perceptions of the others which can lead to team members wanting to leave the team).

As all the team members are from different cultural backgrounds, they will all have different values and norms. By discussing these and finding synergies, you will create an atmosphere of convergence and trust, where all team members will make an effort to find a common ground of understanding. This in turn forms the basis on which you and your team can work together… and achieve your objectives, of course.

Don’t expect the basis you created to be there forever though! It has to be re-negotiated every time when a new issue arises as what is acceptable to one person doesn’t have to be acceptable for the other. A good and functioning international team relies on constant discussions, give and takes as well as on working out the synergies to balance the different opinions, ideas and strengths in your team. All the time!

Mindful listening, empathy and of course patience are the main ingredients that support the above mentioned processes. Being interculturally competent is a main skill nowadays which is required in nearly all workplaces (and even at home when two different nationalities decide to live together under one roof); without it, living and working in our present world becomes difficult.

What do you think?

Resources: Check out:

  • This blog for example, very interesting articles on Germans/Americans
  • This blog for great tools and articles about culture and intercultural competence

 

 

 

“Mantras” for the New Year

key

Dear friends and readers, 2013 is here and the world has obviously not stopped to exist… As I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions I did not make any; but I think that it is worthwhile to remember a couple of things as most of us already started or are about to start with our busy lives again:
Happiness lies within yourself
Running behind dreams and believing that something more interesting and better waits for you around the corner makes you miss the most important things that are given to you, namely the present moment. Live all of your present moments to the fullest extent! You are the key to your own happiness!
Solutions are never far away
Even if you have major issues and problems, there is always a way out. It might not be easy and it might not be solved fast but there is always a solution. Very often we are so deeply entangled in our own schemes and routines that we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Try to shed light from a different angle on what you are going through, reach out to other people, don’t be shy to speak up. Solutions are never that far away!
Stop running
Easily said and not easily done, I know! Setting objectives and goals even in your personal life in order to find more time for yourself and the things you want to do really helps! If you don’t know how to do this, ask me. I am more than happy to share tools and insights with you! Even small chunks of time for yourself are already a great start. And: it is possible! You can do it…
Don’t fall into the same pitfalls
Learn from your mistakes, analyse what went wrong and why. You could even write this down if it helps you. It will make you grow and ultimately make you stronger!

With this in mind, I wish you an excellent start in the New Year! Looking forward to reading/hearing from you!
Jenny