Powered by Africa Business Communities
Recently a suggestion was made on a forum on Africa to adopt a ‘fun way to do brainstorming’ I immediately recognized the American flavor of this message and this struck me as the sender was not from the USA. In a US environment it is hype to call ‘fun’ any work-related activity. It helps in motivating people to learn new ways.
However, having fun when learning or when working is by no means a universal must!
On the opposite, fun would be left for leisure in a number of societies. Learning and working are serious activities where ‘fun’ has no place. Ask a German or Japanese employee if they need to have fun to be motivated at work! In these contexts, motivation to work or to learn new things stems from the satisfaction of being more competent or from the better understanding of effective ways to achieve a goal.
This remark features a style of communication but what is the point of it if the content of the message is meaningful?
But is brainstorming an universally effective tool to share information and move forwards?
Let us examine the case when this technique is transferred in some African societies:
My comments is based on numerous brainstorming sessions I was involved in in different African countries: they were organized by foreign organizations and businesses. African experts helped me in understanding what happened during the various exchanges and synergies of these exercises.
Brainstorming brings together actors from different status in the organization or in the society: senior versus junior workers, female versus male colleagues, people holding an advanced degree versus these with less advanced degrees, peopwho have a high social status in the traditional African societies versus these who have a lower one… In these African societies, these differences have to be acknowledged and people should express their respect for these with a higher social status.
Respect is made of various attitudes, actions and reactions: for example, it is disrespectful to interrupt or point out any inaccurate fact raised by a person with a higher status. These people are supposed to be wise and knowledgeable and subsequently their opinion will rally these in lower status, whatever their personal opinion or experience on the discussed matter.
Information retention is common rule, either because there is no advantage to challenge a person with a higher status or because it is disrespectful to point out a disagreement or an error in front of an audience. The target person will lose face and likely defend in front of a threat. This can be damaging for the one who dares speaking up his/her mind.
In such cultural environment, brainstorming could hardly do better than reflecting analysis, viewpoints and perceptions of these with high societal or organizational status. In these conditions, what is the point of using this ineffective tool?
Let us get back to our advocate of ‘fun brainstorming”
Isn’t it bewildering that people do not reflect on the relevance of imported concepts, techniques and disciplines in their own societal context?
With the strong image of Western style of education in many poor countries, students who have never been encouraged to debate or question what they are learning, blindly apply the golden rules and best practices that American style of education distills.
It is interesting to note that Japanese are very alert to the need to adapt foreign concepts, techniques to their own culture but so far many other societies do not do this exercise yet.
Africans -who have not had much opportunities to travel the world yet- should be more alert to the need to develop indigenous tools that could meet the same objectives than these of imported techniques while respecting the specifics of their own societies.
Cross-cultural competences offer a tool to evaluate the extent to which soft skills would be affected by local cultural specifics that reduce their effectiveness. More culturally sensitive alternatives to brainstorming can subsequently be developed and implemented.
This articles was culled from www.workingwithafricans.com