A colleague of mine recently set up a fascinating course, entitled “Global Work,” which brings together students from Grenoble EM and Stanford University. Working over a period of two months, Professor Grégoire Croidieu and his colleagues in California have brought a group of nearly forty students, half from each institution, to work together with the objective of understanding how global teams can work effectively at a distance.
There is a lot of talk today about working globally and, with the technology that is at our disposal, it is relatively easy to work in teams. In fact, if you talk to any multinational, you will know that this is very complicated indeed. Working at a distance requires a great amount of trust, since you don’t have the physical contact that you normally have with colleagues who work in the same building. In fact, creating this trust can create a considerable amount of time and, depending on the technology you use, this may be quicker or slower to do.
The objective of the course was to get the students to reflect on working at a distance, and the effect that that has on the number of the issues, such as from a cultural perspective, a linguistics perspective, a temporal and even a spatial perspective. In fact, today, very little research has actually been done on this.
During the course, the students from Stanford and Grenoble had one common course and two final lessons together. In between they were taught by experts from different fields, teaching in a synchronous and asynchronous manner, fashion.
“In fact”, points out Gregoire Croidieu, “there is little research on the topic, mostly because it is a phenomenon that is hard to grasp with a single discpline (strategy, ethics, IB, OB, cross-culture, technology, management, etc.) Stanford is one of the few universities in the world that has an expertise in this area. It is a vast and highly complex subject.” he adds.
Each lesson was centered around one of these themes, and brought in experts from different fields, to talk about how they went about addressing these problems. In Grenoble, for example, a senior manager from Hewlett-Packard talked about how technology had an effect on their working practices, and how they went about working with different offices across the world.
The school is also very grateful for Cisco that allowed us to use their latest technology in video-conferencing, “Telepresence”. As we all know, video-conferencing today can be a little bit difficult to work with, given that there are time lags between talking and actually the message getting through. However, with some of the latest technology, literally, as you tell a joke, the person begins to laugh and you can get a real interaction with your colleagues, however far away they are.
Cisco Teleconference Demo
During the course, the students were put into teams of five or six, and had to read a certain number of documents and then come up with a report together. Obviously, all the teams combined students from Stanford and Grenoble. The idea of the report was to analyze some of the difficulties and some of the best practices in working in multicultural teams at a distance, how trust could be built up within that team, and to look at one type of technology, to see what were the advantages and disadvantages for that technology in building trust within teams.
Teaching today can be an exciting thing, and projects such as these are wonderful. Not only do they bring together students and professors that would not necessarily be able to talk to each other, they also bring real learning into the classroom. Anybody who studied into intercultural management will know about the works of Hofstede or Trompenaars, and this is all very interesting. However, it is when you really get into working with someone from a different culture, you understand the difficulties involved. The technology just seems to add to that.
Indeed, for more than twenty years now, people have been predicting the demise of travelling, saying that technology, video-conferencing, etc., would stop people having to do it. The fact is that people are travelling more and more. This is for the simple reason that you still need to build up trust and this can best be done when you’ve actually visited someone. This type of work then is an excellent example of how we might begin looking towards the future in building trust within teams, so that we might eventually be able to travel less and get more work done.
I want to use this post to publicize a blog that is being written by some 25 students from my school, who are currently studying finance in New York. The students have gone up there for one semester to study a program that we jointly set up with Pace University to give them the ins and outs of finance in the USA, and also to show them some of the best practices of working in the United States.
This week, Philip Warwick, Senior Teaching Fellow at Durham University Business School, UK, writes at guest blog on the state of internationalisation in British universities. Professor Warwick has been studying the international strategies of a number of universities in the UK and in other countries. He has found that approaches vary across countries. Within the UK he has identified four specific strategies to international development within the group of universities he studied.
I’m glad to write the first post on the Transcontinental program that will take place in New York City, US during the 2nd semester of year 2012/2013.
I am one of several people that will co-write this blog with a view to give you more insight into the Transcontinental program in New York. My name’s Aurélien Mauro, I’m 22 and I am a 2nd Year student at Grenoble Ecole de Management. Up to now, I used to be in the English Track program. The Transcontinental program is called by the school administration a “relocated English Track program”: it’s a program that was created by the school but abroad, in partners universities.
Over the past 20 years, management schools in France have led the way in providing young internationally minded graduates fit to work in modern business. They should recognize this and stop apologizing for what they have achieved. Read more …
MarkjOwen’s Blog: “Virtual Teams do require a little bit of extra effort, however, to get all the players to “gel” well together. The team I worked in had regular communication, and an awareness that things had to happen differently than in a usual everyone-in-the-same-building situation.”