South Africa Business Communities

Powered by Africa Business Communities

Pascale Sztum is a Principal consultant, trainer and researcher with WorkingWithAfricans.

 

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

 

Views: 25

Comment

You need to be a member of South Africa Business Communities to add comments!

Join South Africa Business Communities

Comment by Carel Venter on April 12, 2011 at 4:16pm

I agree that Brainstorming assumes (to be successfull) and equal opportunity for participation by all roleplayers. That is hardly ever the situation and would therefore require a very skilled facilitator to get generate real value.

Besides different status levels and rules within a corporate or community culture (men vs woman, elders vs youth, executive versus juniors, etc) there is another challenge on a more basic level. All people does not process information in te same way or at the same speed (refer NLP and other models) thus making equal particiaption opportunity an illusion.

I have often seen Brainstorming being used to derive quick answers - only the Visual (NLP) people actively contribute - the format and speed fit their way of processing information. Kinestetic (and even auditive) dominant people (who need more time to process information) will then often withdraw and being labeled as not participating, negative or obstructive.

One way to overcome some of the obstacles is to get people to first work in groups of two - generating suggestions - writing on a piece of paper. This allows people to potentialy differ from more powerfull people "outside" the public view. It also helps the shy to start to contribute.

Then by recirculating the suggestion notes and requesting people to read and interpret the suggestion on the note they got, the personal confilct situation gets removed . Discussion of the proposals / ideas afterwards re then neutral as the original generator is unknown.

In all cases one requires a skilled facilitator to ensure good participation by all.

Also a good idea is to circulate the ideas list as a draft and allow everybody the opportunity to submit new or edited ideas to the facilitator within 24 hours after reviewing the outcome of the brainstorm session. The final list of options/ideas only gets finanilsed after this step.

Africa Business Panel | B2B Market Research

As a valued LinkedIn group member, we invite you to join a prestigious online community.


The Africa Business Panel is open exclusively to business men and women engaged in business on the African continent.

 

As a participant in the African Business Panel, you will benefit in several ways and at the same time, you will have no obligations whatsoever. You will decide if and when you want to participate. However, the more you participate in surveys, the better your chances of benefiting from your membership.

Click here to join now



Badge

Loading…

Jobs in Marketing - Johannesburg

Senior Account Manager - Marketing/Digital (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Lewyll Communications</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Honours
Have own transport: Yes
Travel requirement: Often
City: Johannesburg
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Strategy Manager - In-store Marketing (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Lewyll Communications</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Degree
Have own transport: Yes
Travel requirement: Often
City: Johannesburg
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Sales/Marketing Assistant - Design/Display (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Rocket Creative Design & Display</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Diploma
City: Johannesburg
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Sound Lecturer (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Afda</i>
Province: Gauteng
City: Johannesburg
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Part-Time Editing Lecturer (Johannesburg)

Posted by: African Academy Of Cinematic Arts</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Degree
City: Johannesburg
Type: Temporary
Read full job description...

Marketing/Admin Assistant (Pretoria)

Posted by: MyBroadband</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Degree
Have own transport: Yes
Travel requirement: Occasional
City: Pretoria
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Sales/Marketing Intern (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Now Media</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Diploma
Have own transport: Yes
City: Johannesburg
Type: Contract 6 months
Read full job description...

PA - Marketing (West Rand)

Posted by: Cardilogix</i>
Province: Gauteng
Education level: Diploma
City: West Rand
Type: Permanent
Read full job description...

Brand Communication Strategy/Planning Lecturer (Johannesburg)

Posted by: Vega School - Bordeaux Campus</i>
Province: Gauteng
City: Johannesburg
Read full job description...

© 2019   Created by Bas Vlugt.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service