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Overcoming Culture Clash

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Overcoming Culture Clash
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We are all a product of our experiences. Different communities around theworld have different core assumptions about behaviour, how decisions are made,the role of the individual in a group, and more. What makes up culture, andcan we have better community experiences by understanding it? We are all a product of our experiences. Different communities around theworld have different core assumptions about behaviour, how decisions are made,the role of the individual in a group, and more. Sociologist Geert Hofstededefined six dimensions of culture, covering values, the relationship of theindividual to a group, respect for hierarchy, and attitude to change. Inaddition to these, there is a wide variation in communication styles relatedto the use of physical gestures, attitudes to silence, the need for context. By understanding what makes up culture, you will have tools to question yourown cultural assumptions, increase your empathy for other participants fromdifferent cultures, and avoid misunderstandings as soon as they occur. Can wehave better community experiences by understanding the culture participantsare coming from? Can we give tools to current community members to be moreculturally sensitive and welcoming? And can we also give better advice topeople joining the project for the first time, which meets them where theyare, rather than expecting them to fit in with the community culture on dayone?
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[Music] hello everybody I'm Dave if you want to
tweet stuff near edy on Twitter de neri is Diane your she's a librarian in New York she's awesome I don't know where except on Twitter because lots of people tweeted stuff to her instead of me but um so how to overcome culture clash so I'm not an expert in this this is just me sharing some of the things that I have read learned about that I found interesting that kind of plugged into the way that I've been talking to partners developer communities in other countries about how they can be more effective and open source but I think there are also lessons for open-source developers about how they can be more welcoming to people from other cultures so it was culture clash that culture
called the culture club and the clash yeah so communities are messy this is maker community there's stuff everywhere but they're not just messy physically they're messy because there's human relationships and human relationships are messy humans are messy you know humans on their own or not but once they start to get into Paris that things break down quickly and cultural differences are very confusing so this
hand sign here on the on the right this depending on whether you're from Japan from America whether you're a diver whether you're from France or Poland will mean completely different things right to some cultures it means zero nothing to other cultures it means a okay in Japan that means money and in some Middle Eastern countries I believe this is the equivalent to the middle finger so same signal and you know how do you greet people I have had that I remember specific conference I met a friend that I've known for many years and so I've I retire hland we don't touch each other very much it's true that's true we don't like physical contact is not a thing I lived in France for many years and in France we we kiss quite a lot but there's no kind of I there's there's a certain space that's respected it's kind of you leaned in and in the u.s. people are huggers I found that there's lots of lots of Americans hug and I met this American friend that I had met in many different contexts and I was like I don't know what the appropriate physical contact is that's you know that's nice I appreciate that we can have a hug and it was like it was okay but physical contact how do you greet people how do you behave in different cultures it's kind of confusing and it's not something we're comfortable talking about very much which is strange because so is it
iceberg picture there's the things we do and then there are the reasons why we do them and there's how you interpret and react to what other people do and your interpretations and reactions are deep-seated in your upbringing your values your culture the things that you've learned the family that you were born in this gentleman down here could probably give this talk because you are actually talking about exactly this we all live in our own little bubble we have a common heritage with other people who have similar bubbles because they grow up in the same area with the same religion went to the same schools have the same friends and yet once we travel we bump into other bubbles and you know is the person who I am perceiving is rude being rude or just behaving as they would normally behave and not understanding why I'm getting upset so it's all kind of strange there are many aspects that go into culture there are seven of them that are that are commonly cited social organization religious attitudes language heritage in arts and culture economic systems forms of government etc but a colleague of mine Flavio Percoco and found this definition somewhere which I thought was kind of nice it's it's the way it's the culture is the way humans in the community actually get stuff done actually do stuff it's it's the explanation for how we behave and how we react so how do we get past cultural differences because there are there are many we agree they're messy we agree it's a problem in open-source communities I assume and there you know some of them are a little bit practically difficult to address things like geographical and language differences but there's the actual cultural reactions how we deal with each other so I'm going to by the way there are a few bit ly links in here and any of the if there books any of the links if you want to follow them we'll go to a smile amazon.com which will support the software freedom Conservancy with a few dollars if you choose to buy them don't feel obliged I'm just letting you know that so how do we get past cultural differences so well so everybody here
has probably heard the expression tragedy of the Commons how many people are aware of the original source and have read the original paper from Garrett Hardin okay there's three or four but that's that's good so the idea of the tragedy of the Commons is if there is a common good and hard and wrote about this and in fact in the context of any restricted entity but if what one of the one of the examples he chose which which kind of got picked up prominently was population control which was a big issue in the 60s late 60s when you wrote this so when you have a common
good and you have many people who are sharing it and those who are from Ireland and I see a few people who are at least living in Ireland common age is still very common in in agricultural communities in Ireland where you have like Hills like where it's a big area of space and you might put a very sparse number of animals on there so many many families will share a part of the common edge and they will farm turf there put animals on the land and it's a shared good shared by a number of people and Hardin theory is that anytime you have a fixed good which is shared by people it is in everybody's self-interest to behave in a way which is detrimental to the common good in other words detrimental to the group interest because if you have for example a piece of land that can support a hundred cattle and there are ten families that's ten cattle each right but if I put an eleventh cattle I am getting ten percent more productivity for a cost to the common good of one percent one extra cow on top of a hundred so I'm degrading the common good a little bit and that degradation is spread across ten family so I'm actually it's in my self-interest to to take more than my fair share and so this is the problem that that Hardin presents and there are a number of obvious solutions Hardin is famously libertarian and so his solution was well what you should do is not have the common good you should have everything be private property and therefore everyone has control total control over their own ten percent of the common good and therefore they will they will curate and maintain it in a way which is which makes it long-term sustainable there are other solutions in fact this is one of the interesting papers that's appealed to both libertarians and communists for example or Social Democrats in terms of a way that one should manage a common good one way is to elect a government or to elect a council of seniors who will ensure that everybody respects the rules so you create an outside body which with the respect of all which enforces a common set of rules one can use a religion or autocratic power to protect the common good so you have a religion which which reinforces the values and the law and so maybe people behave in a certain way and they don't understand why they're behaving in that way but they know that this is the way things are done so what happens when these various solutions to this problem meet what happens so this is a a book called moral tribes which I'll reference later that describes what he calls the tragedy of common sense morality we're for people who have had this common space have have solved this problem in four different ways one is with that with an autocratic government one is with the rule of religion another is a Council of Elders that that curates the body and then you've got the libertarian private property overall solution they meet when a fire destroys the land which had been a kind of a dense forest which had separated them for many years what happens well the people who value private property overall say well this is unclaimed property we're now going to go in and claim this land the people who are communists say well hold on a second this is the people's land we should share this as a common good and so they get into into trouble the religious governed society takes offense when somebody from from the the southern land is singing on Tuesday something which is forbidden by the religion and and so on and so on and you have this series of conflicts because these cultures are colliding and their values don't match so he calls this a tragedy of common sense morality this is a book I it's it's a lot of these sources are from behavioral psychology which is a fascinating field it's about why people behave the way they do which is something that I've become increasingly interested in and Greene talks a lot about the trolley problem I don't know if if you're aware of this it's if you're out a switch and you can see a train heading for one person on the track so you can and you can turn it or heading for five people on the tracks and you can turn it to hit one person should you should you hit the switch and the you know the logical answer is yes you should do the thing which is the greater good but in fact whether you do it or not depends on how far and how empath empathetic you are to the one person that you will kill very interesting anyway he talks about the the laws of common sense morality in the nature's of why we do things and so we come to culture so that at this another sociologist called hurt Hofstadter I believe he's Dutch could be Belgian I believe he's Dutch described six dimensions of culture six kind of core characteristics which can be used to define a six dimensional vector which will describe how individuals organizations approach culture can I get a time check off you and I haven't been keeping time oh I'm doing really well I'm going am I going too fast which is that this was really the thing that I think kind of got me thinking about this more deeply obviously not as deeply as mr. Hufstedler but he describes these characteristics which can apply and then you cannot it you can extract characteristics of a society from its approach to religion social structure education parenting general values of a society along the seven axes that we saw earlier with these six dimensions of culture that he identifies so these are the six the first is the power distance index which was made popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in the book outliers if any of you have read that I don't have a link for that so so if you're gonna you know anyway which is about how people react to hierarchy and I'll go into each of these individually afterwards masculine versus feminine which is not the same as male dominated versus female dominated it's about the VATS the character traits that are valued in the culture individualism versus collectivism uncertainty avoidance past
versus future or current focus and then indulgence versus self constraint and so if you look at power distance low power distance means a flat hierarchy a flat social hierarchy lack of respect for elders there's no kind of inherent respect for elders questioning of authority student-centered education this is something that was very surprising to me when I moved to the US was that the teachers are very focused on each individual student growing as an individual rather than the class as a whole respecting a certain behavioral norms doing homework forcing kids to do homework that kind of thing which is I thought was quite interesting it's there's very student-centered education in the u.s. teacher centered a centered education would be what would I what I would have come from from France where where you expect the kids to conform to what the teacher tells them to do even to the detriment of the individual being able to express themselves in the the subordinate relationship and work is one that's really interesting in in high in low power distance culture ease subordinates expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them whereas in higher power a power distance cultures subordinates expect to get very clear instruction so that they can execute on a clear plan you can imagine how this this creates culture conflict when people from a higher power distance culture start to work in in companies or cultures that have a low power distance on one end it's like I don't understand I keep asking what what he would like us to do and he's not giving he's it's like okay okay okay and then on the other end it's I don't understand this manager won't tell me what they want me to do I I'm trying to do things in kind of the Indus framework and I'm not getting clear direction so that's the kind of thing that that you see some examples of low power distance Israel actually quite famously there's a what's an anecdote by another social behavior is called Danny Kahneman ka h n e ma n who also wrote a lot of stuff about how why why people behave irrationally where he says is the first time that he was teaching in Israel students would shout out when he was when they disagreed with him and would get into back-and-forth discussions with the professor saying he's wrong you're wrong and this is something that was completely foreign to him from before so very a very flat social structure in Israel compared to something like a Malaysia or China where there is a very strong respect for her individual versus collectivism I think probably a lot of this can be traced back historically this is one of the bigger ones that would be a difference between some European cultures and Asian cultures and North America I think America being founded on lowering taxation creating independence from from from a foreign power has a very very strong emphasis on the individual individual autonomy freedom the ability to to be left alone from government government interference on the one end and on the collectivist side the idea that we have a responsibility to I that that as a collective we we are responsible for each other's well-being and provide a safety net to the to the weakest in the culture and you can again see how these cut these societies are the societal tendencies will will conflict some of these are aligned by the way uncertainty avoidance [Music] on the one end we have cultures with low uncertainty avoidance ready to take risk more venture capital faster growth acceptance of failure on the high uncertainty avoidance we have a reluctance to take on debt we have a change is seen as a threat to ways of life there are a lot of rules and regulations which even if people don't respect them and that's often the case in countries like like Germany or France for example we're we're happy that there are the rules and regulations are there as a need for rules and structure and then there's a rejection of all structure on the other side masculinity versus femininity one of the biggest things here is how do you make decisions how do we arrive at consensus is it by ideas conflicting each other and confronting each other in argument or is it by working together and collaborating against a common enemy and a couple of a common problem that's identified this is so there are actually very few countries that are very very high on the feminine side low masculinity index most of them are northern European socialist states take from that which what you will but they're also kind of southern European states are I have a very high masculine index where there's there's like in France for example there is still a very male-dominated culture and there's a rewards-based culture it's a focus on the task over the individual that's a focus on facts over feelings and these are the differences between masculine and feminine societies focus on the long term versus the short term long term focus persistence savings investment in the future are things that are valued now short term focus the next quarter traditions focus on reproducing what's happened in the past nationalism and love of country is something that's very common in short-term focused countries it's interesting to see the UK Germany and USA or the the three countries that score the lowest on the short term focus given recent political developments at least in the USA in the UK I'm not going to get into that I I promised I wasn't going to talk politics but but it's kind of tough to avoid it a colleague told me an an anecdote where he was on a trade delegation to China and learned from one of the people that they were meeting that the Chinese were investing in kindergarten and primary schools in in African countries it's like white blue why would you invest in primary schools in African countries surely it makes more sense to invest in
research projects and and universities that's like well first we need to get more people literate through primary school then in five years we want to invest more in secondary schools and in ten years we'll start to invest in university so there in 15 and 20 years when we need the graduates will we will have a collection of graduates this is long-term thinking the USA it's I want to invest in postdocs because I want something that's going to give me an immediate return from my investment so there's that and then this is the one that's it's so long-term short-term and indulgent versus restrained were added after the original the four first which were the original four that Hoff's today identified this is the one that has the least data indulgence societies people are focused on the immediacy happiness restrained people focus not so much on their feelings or expressing their feelings freedom's breeches that's where responsibility you see lower birth rates and higher security forces stricter sexual norms you can read as well as I can okay so there are other aspects I mentioned touch a few times haptic communication body language another anecdote there are people who you can walk backwards across a room by stepping in a quarter of a step every couple of minutes they will step back without even realizing they're doing it and you can just keep walking them back this is a particularly Americans have to have an idea of personal space which is a little bit larger than others there are regions of the United States where people are more uncomfortable with silence so we talked about the moderator who speaks too much area in some groups it is considered polite to leave a pause of a half a second when somebody is finished so that you're sure that the other person is finished if you get somebody from Houston Texas and there's a half a second pause they will feel uncomfortable physically uncomfortable and will feel obliged to stop you from being uncomfortable too to fill that space with speech so that's how you end up with one person keeping completely one side of the conversation while the other person is continually waiting for an opportunity to get a word in just one example of the ways in which communication style can change from one area to another did you have a question can you vouch for this is this true okay so this is all very interesting stuff we have our six dimensions of culture and we have some more components around the nature of touch and body language and personal space and perfect thank you but how is this useful what can we learn from this in open source so one more book reference in this I'm assuming more people over at the who knows read this book getting to yes this is a must read book you did you must get this book so this is about negotiation but not negotiation in the confrontational sense of the word this is a book it was the first book written from the Harvard negotiation project which is which is fabulous which is fabulous and they're a bunch of so there's there's difficult conversations as another one it's a collection of sociologists politicians diplomats business people who have gotten together to try and understand the nature of getting to win-win negotiated deals and one of the things that that comes out of the Harvard project I don't believe it's in this book but this is definitely one that you should read is types of communication so when you speak to somebody else there are four things that you can do to communicate what with them one is you can ask you a question inquiry another is to repeat something that they said in your words to ensure that you have understood them correctly paraphrasing another is to acknowledge that you understand where they are coming from knowledge meant and then finally you can make a statement of your own affirmation you're just coming straight back with your opinion first up there is active listening so the idea of active listening is that you your empathically listening to the person that you have opposite you to to really try and understand what they're getting at I've listed that as part of communication even though that is not one of the four ways that you would communicate with somebody else but I think it's a vital component most discussions in open-source communities are ninety four ninety percent or more affirmation we say what we believe the other person says what they believe and there is actually very little meeting in the middle there are a few reasons why that's problematic one is what one that this gentleman mentioned as well actor observer bias or actor observers observer asymmetry this is a cognitive bias whereby everybody assumes that the other knows everything that they know and is also aware of everything that they don't know so why would somebody suggest this friend they know that this other thing is true and that makes their proposal completely unreasonable this person is unreasonable if you don't assume that the other person knows everything that you know and you say well have you considered this you can actually end up with better solutions combine that with another cognitive bias bias which is the group communication bias perhaps or I can't remember the name of it which is that when you get a group of people together they are more likely to talk about stuff that they already share in terms of knowledge then sharing information that they have which is unique to the group you say the things that everybody already agrees on rather than rocking the boat by bringing new information to the table and combine that with actor-observer bias and you get very suboptimal solutions so you it's important that you question assumptions when you're coming to the table and using all of those ways of communicating asking good questions listening actively to the answers ensuring that you paraphrase those and say well hold on I just want to make sure that we're sharing the same assumptions here is an understanding creating a common frame of reference is vital to good communication across cultures I'm sorry there are no easy fixes here I'm gonna have you know she's that were but this is a vital to
or three concrete tips one is a focus on the relationship the Chinese have a terrific word which I am going to pronounce wrong by I tried to learn the pronunciation for it for a Chinese audience and I said it several times and they said I don't understand and and then I wrote it and I said I don't understand and I looked up on the interest internet deed idea gram and they said ah guanxi and that's what I've been saying all along as far as I was concerned how often does this happen so they have this wonderful word called Guan XI which which translates directly to relationship but it means so much more than that and it's one of the reasons why when Chinese companies are working with American companies the American companies are wondering why are these people dancing around the topics all the time and why do they want to go to dinner all the time and the Chinese companies are frustrated because these Americans want to talk business without having a relationship on which they can construct a relationship of trust so focus on the relationship everything you should do to integrate people from from minority cultures should be focused on how can we get a closer relationship with individuals in that community and another Chinese saying from dong Zhou
ping I think I may be pronounced in no time across the river by feeling the stones he talked about this is how the Chinese economy would develop essentially we're going to do one thing we're going to see how it works out and then we're going to do another thing when we're sure we have a short foot hold then we're going to go on to the next step across the river by feeling the stones so small steps so how can we do that in terms of projects so I didn't see Brian's talk earlier I tried to get in sorry but you grow relationships so it's one conversation at a time I would say encouraging local user groups is a great move as long as they do not become isolated from the whole so that's why it's important if you're going to invest in geographical diversity in your community encouraging those local groups allows a local Sikh a local support group it allows people who can talk to each other in their local language and share knowledge and share experience and comment come at your community with the beginners like but it's also important that you build that bridge so there are two ways to do that one is to bring people from those local communities to your global events and treat them as VIPs reintroduce them bring them out to dinner introduce them to the to the leaders of your community and start to create those relationships and also send your community leaders to those local user groups to speak directly to the local communities and again build relationships within that within those groups mentorship is vital both inside the local groups ensure that there are mentors if you have people in for example China who are already engaged in your community ask them if they will help others to become more involved because they will help navigate the roadblocks of your community in a culturally it's coming from the frame of reference of the people that they're talking to so that's for projects for individuals cross the river by feeling the stones start small propose small changes and listen to feedback try and learn to learn you know When in Rome try and learn what the norms and cultural sensitivities of a community are I think it's important to learn how to argue in a community to learn how to when you get feedback on a patch for example to learn the best way to manifest that you don't agree with this feedback or don't understand this feedback and again identifying potential mentors in your local community who can help you is a very important step and then finally so I can leave a couple of minutes for questions I guess geographically geography and language unfortunately we're not going to do anything anytime soon which is going to make India fewer than nine time zones from California so avoid real time meetings for God's sake don't have your Chinese on your Indian contributors attending meetings at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. it's just anti-social it's anti-family exactly everything and I know I mean even in work this is this is a common occurrence where where I have contributors who I like stop inviting me to meetings while you're at dinner it's just inconvenient we can do it in our area or an hour later and it's still okay for me and you know let's not have a meeting at all if we can avoid it so avoid real-time meetings is vital be aware of major holidays ever if I had if I had a dollar for every time that I heard somebody in an open-source community say look we have to choose a date and we can't make everybody happy I would have quite a few dollars but if you are moderately culturally aware and you are aware of the major like the one cannot miss it this is the vital major holiday like Christmas for Christians in the year you would avoid maybe one week in September because of Rosh Hashanah you would avoid one week around now because of Chinese New Year you would avoid one week in in perhaps November for Diwali and and that would be it that date like it's it's only four or five weeks in the year and you've covered Hindu most Indian most sorry Asian religions most Christian religions and and Judaism like it's not that hard to identify the four major holidays across four major world religions the language is always going to be an issue and it's one that's unfortunately impossible to fix well it's very difficult to fix but you can make it easier by avoiding real-time meetings IRC even is hard because typing in a foreign languages it's hard and you get left behind in the conversation and also I think encouraging those local communities we're keeping them connected the whole helps with both the geography and the language issues sorry I rushed through a little bit at the end do I have time for a question or two a couple of questions anybody have questions contributions I'm not an expert in this you're welcome how do you do more the best boxer well thank you that's real fine yep I mean that's your on doesn't Express and I read as much material as you are communication situation I agree some people thanks to advice to do face to face book I was told to okay it's it's exactly the opposite so so let me provide context I think the weekly status meeting is a waste of time if there's an issue it needs to address so the question becomes how do you identify issues before before they become serious enough and I agree real real like face to face getting teams together is probably the most valuable way that open-source projects can spend their money but be aware that if you're bringing ten Chinese contributors to a global conference which is a thousand people what you're gonna find is that those ten people stay together all week and they're not going to build any relationships inside that community which is my personal experience so that's that's why I suggest bringing smaller numbers if you're bringing them to a big conference because it can be overwhelming and also make sure that there's a support support net there when they arrive for work I think it's yeah it's very valuable to meet each other and it's very valuable for people to talk one-on-one when there's a need I don't think there should be a like don't have weekly status meetings if you don't need one right and have meetings with an agenda that's actually just free tip thank you last question I think evilness we have to infinity right well Ramadan would actually funnier not be one of the things that I would not particularly avoid for a but I eat would be like at the end of Ramadan yes exactly exactly although on asking be careful because some of those cultural dimensions one of the one of the things in communication style will be doesn't want to put other people out right so there's their third there are cultures where you're much more comfortable expressing when you disagree even when some even when somebody is explicitly asking where you're much more comfortable expressing discomfort or disagreement than other cultures so it's something to be aware of my Greek I think I'm out of time so I'm happy to continue this outside [Applause]