Summary of When Teams Collide

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Communications consultant Richard D. Lewis builds on his international experience to address a big stumbling block for global companies: the inability of people on multinational teams to cooperate. Members’ conscious or unconscious cultural assumptions lead to the danger of unintentionally offending (or being offended by) other members. Lewis warns of the hazards of stereotyping various nationalities, and then he takes that risk often, though he bases his descriptions of cultural inclinations on extended research into cooperation on multinational teams. He says understanding leaders can overcome team members’ widely differing organizational, linguistic and ethical perspectives. Your reaction will depend on whether you see his descriptions as illuminating or stereotyping. Lewis does provide practical steps for resolving cultural conflicts in 11 pivotal areas. Each chapter ends with case studies and includes well-intended but hard-to-interpret graphics. Fortunately, getAbstract finds the written text stands on its own.

About the Author

Richard D. Lewis is the chairman of Richard Lewis Communications, which provides international cross-cultural and language training. He worked for five years in Japan as a tutor for the imperial family.



The Challenges Facing Multicultural Teams

The growth of multinational corporations has placed a new emphasis on international teams. The leaders of such teams typically must reconcile a variety of cultural styles that pull in different directions – Latin volubility, Nordic restraint, American impatience, and the like. Leaders can expect their team members to have varying attitudes toward everything from communication to culture. To meet such challenges and create smoothly functioning work units, the leaders of these teams must master 11 areas of competence or “basic items of knowledge”:

1. “Categorizing Cultures”

When initially assigned to an international team, people tend to remain in their own cultural havens, where they feel comfortable. The manager’s role is to capitalize on this diversity, not to suppress it. The first step is to analyze team members’ cultures based on the three basic types outlined in the “Lewis Model”: “linear-active, multi-active and reactive.” Linear-actives, such as the Germans and the Swiss, prefer to do things systematically and follow a plan. They like facts and numbers. People-oriented multi-actives, such as the Italians and ...

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