The jaw-droppers came during an excellent (and packed!) talk given by Agile consultant Jutta Eckstein.
I am saving most of her talk to write about in more detail later, but she was speaking about the challenges of doing Agile in a distributed environment when teams (or parts of teams) are located in different places and/or different countries.
Ok, sure. We know that.
But did we know that there are actually other kinds of English than American or British or Australian? And that just because English is the international language of business doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll understand “Chinese English” or “Indian English”? And that you can actually take a class to become more familiar with some of these other versions of English? (And Ms. Eckstein makes a great case to do just that…she said native English speakers have told her they’re never worried about understanding English from non-native speakers until they hear it, and then many find it quite challenging. As she put it, “There are different Englishes out there.”)
Wow. Jaw dropped.
But she went further, to talk about how it can really pay off to research the country you’re working with, not in an icky, stereotyping way, but to understand general differences between cultures. She compared Germany and the US during her presentation using data from The Hofstede Center. This site is based on world famous research on cultural values and standards that make it easier to visualize differences between countries.
My jaw dropped, again, because it would never have occurred to me to look at a culture in this way simply to improve a multi-national work environment.
Great idea. We should all reach outside our comfort zones.