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Managing across culture becomes a significant module to the international marketing. Because, it involves the ability to realize and embrace the similarities and differences among different cultures and then make appropriate approaches or strategies with the multicultural mind (Bate, 1998:44). Moreover, this module provides a general understanding about the materiality of culture for the international business, and it also makes the learners of this module become more multicultural and international than before. In the beginning, this learning log will describe the experience what the learner have obtained from this module. Furthermore, in the main body, it will focus on describing the group's development. It will discuss the problems in group's development, and the reasons for the formation of these problems, furthermore, how to solve these problems with the multicultural knowledge come from the learning of this module. At last, this learning log will make a conclusion and provide some positive suggestions for the future study.
The problems in group's development
Recently, more and more international corporations are turning towards as a way of managing increasingly complex and multicultural environments (Kezar, 2008: 7). How to adapt these multicultural issues in the fierce market competition is becoming the severest challenge to every international corporation. This situation also exists in our multicultural groups. Every group in the managing across culture seminar is a multicultural group, the situation in our group is that four group members come from China, and one comes from Germany. To some extent, our group can be regarded as a mini-multicultural team. In our multicultural group, the participants can glean views from different cultural background on the same issue. On the other hand, in the multicultural group also have some cultural conflicts just as the multicultural teams. In this learning log, it will put the emphasis on describing and how to solve the cultural conflicts in our multicultural group.
Firstly, our group is different from other groups, all of the group members are male, and other groups are all mixed sexual groups. It has to be admitted that this kind of group sexual structure probably will has some negative influences on our group works. Because there are some evidences show that the simplex gender would lead to negative attitude in the group work (Cohen & Mullender, 2003:202). Certainly, though this problem has no relationship with the culture, it practically has some negative influences on our group's development. Secondly, as a multicultural team, it is important that all members should develop the skill of maintaining a balance between different nationalities and races (Ponterotto et al, 2009: 417). Unfortunately, the nationality balance of our group is not reasonable. There are four Chinese and one German in our group. This structure will result in some imbalances issue in the group's development. These two problems mentioned above are objective; the list of group members is decided by randomly not by group members. Therefore, we have nothing to do about the structure of our group. However, I hope that in the future seminar this situation can be improved, the balance of gender and nationality in group should be more reasonable. Now, the only thing we can do is try to relieve the negative influences of these two problems in the future group's development.
"Sometimes cultural differences are interpreted as "personality problems" (Schneider & Barsoux, 1997: 198). This situation is also exist in our group's development, Ben who comes from Germany thinks that some participants in our group are not active, because they always absent, and then even attend they are seldom reading the reference articles, and sometimes keep silence in the process of discussion. Sometimes, it is just Ben and I enjoy the process of group work. Therefore, this situation makes our group's development into a vicious cycle. Focus on the cultural conflict exists in our group, Ben and I have a discussion at the group study room of library. Generally, analysis from the cultural angle, our discussion got several significant results.
As is well known, in China that competitions exist in everywhere. The huge population decides everyone has the awareness of competition. That means if you are not good enough, there must be someone instead of you. Ben and I always can meet our group members in library. Therefore, in Ben and my perspectives, basically, the other group members are not lazy. There must be some other deeper cultural reasons exist.
Firstly, In Chinese culture, for the unknown objects, people usually keep distance and quiet. Sometimes, in Chinese culture keep silence is a way to show your respect and polite to others (Hu et al, 2010: 39). Secondly, the other Chinese students in our group just arrived Newcastle several months, their spoken English are not practiced. Compare with them, Ben's and my spoken English are more batter. Therefore, probably this is the reason that why other group members are taciturn in group discussion. Schneider and Barsoux (1997) suggested that "patience and respect is necessary, not only because different cultures have different rhythms, but also because it takes time to practiced. " On this point, I think I did not good enough, because sometimes just Ben and I are talking, we ignored the feeling of others.
Furthermore, sometimes the Chinese students always consider their teacher as authoritative, and follow their instruction to the letter, because Chinese students have the habit that learning means taking what is given (Hu et al, 2010: 74). Therefore, according to the practical situation of our group, we should choose someone to be the group leader at first, nevertheless, we did not. Schein (2004) described that "Leadership is the ability to step outside the culture that created the leader and to start evolutionary change processes that are more adaptive." Sometimes, there are some uncertain and uncontrollable factors in multicultural group. Leadership is a positive and effective ability to solve these cultural conflicts. Certainly, this leadership must be multicultural and reasonable. Consequently, if we choose a group leader at the first seminar, and then the group leader makes a clear division on group work; I think the situation probably would more batter than now.
Different educational background
Thirdly, in most of the academicians' perspectives, the collectivism is popular accepted in Chinese, and then the individualism can be regarded as the representative value of the western culture. Nevertheless, this situation is not visible in the education field. In Germany, the seminar and the group discussion are common things in school. The students get used to share their views and ideas in the group discussion. This ability seems to become an innate ability of the student who accepts western education. Through the group discussion, students can get more information from different positions, and also can make up the weakness of their views (Psillos & Niedderer, 2002: 159). Nevertheless, in China, there is almost no group discussion or seminar in the educational system, even in the higher education (Hu et al, 2010: 75). That means most Chinese students get used to learn individually and they seldom communicate with others about their study. Therefore, most of Chinese students have no idea about the group discussion. Consequently, to some degree, the students who accept the western education are more collectivistic than Chinese students in group discussion.
Different value orientation
In Chinese cultures, competitions exist in everywhere. Because of the huge population created a competitive society. Sometimes, this kind of situation lead to people becomes utilitarian (Hu et al, 2010: 56). Focus on the problem in our group, that is if the results of group discussion or seminar did not relate to the final scores, the Chinese students probably will not pay a lot of attention on it. They prefer to spend more time on writing the essay which must be hand in rather than reading the articles for group discussion.
"I understand my country so much better, when I stand in someone else's" said Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth century British writer (Schneider & Barsoux, 1997: 10). In my perspective, the Managing across culture is a significant module; it is can help the learners obtain a deeper understanding of cross-cultural management. Though our group's development is full of problems, some are objective problems, some are personal problems, and however, majority are cultural problems, I still got some good experience from it. For example I know the "Oktoberfest" from Ben, and Ben got some ideas about Chinese culture from me. We respect the cultures of each other, and then always study together now. Personally, I was born in China, and have to be an exchange student in Taiwan for one year, and now, I am studying in UK. Therefore, to some extent, I am a person who has the multicultural background in our multicultural group. From my experience, the patience, respect, sufficient communication and understanding are the necessary conditions for a multicultural group. Therefore, in the future learning of managing across culture, we should make a full use of group discussion, make every group members enjoy the process of group discussion, make every participant can share the opinions and ideas come from different positions. As Schneider and Barsoux (1997) suggested that: "Rather than seeing the culture as a problem to be solved, there is evidence that culture can provide a source of competitive advantage." It is necessary that in the future learning of managing across culture, enhances the benefit of cultural diversity, relieve the negative influences come from cultural conflicts, skilfully use the knowledge in this module to guide the behaviours of the multicultural group members, and then make a satisfying performance of group work.