At the end of the first year at HBS, students need to travel to different countries and provide consultancy for local companies. In 2017, I traveled to the Mexico City and worked with an international financial institute. Here is my reflection of this trip.
1. Assume best intentions: while we are coming from different backgrounds, the working styles are also very different (ex: consulting people are comfortable for using drafts to communicate while finance people always need to have perfect documents). Always assume the best intention of others and be more inclusive even at the cost of some level of inefficiency, so we can better leverage everyone’s expertise and avoid shutting down others unconsciously.
2. Think big: never trapped in one position and missing the whole picture, no matter we are consultants, students, directors, employees or whoever. Though we might all have our own agendas, thinking the big picture can usually benefit everyone.
3. Be gentle but persistent: never feel angry when others don’t know you. Take your time to prove yourself and be persistent in a gentle way, and then others will understand your value and respect you. If they still don’t understand, then at least we live up to our own expectations. Never give up contributing! Once we give up, we really lose all the values!
4. Cultural difference? Cultural similarity! When we focus on cultural difference so much, we usually forget to find the similarity between two cultures. However, the common points can always be a good starting point to have a precise analysis of the difference. (For example, after I realized the similarity in family values between Taiwan and Mexico, I could easily feel resonated in customer interviews and identified the uniqueness of Mexican family values, leading to a more localized proposal for marketing campaign.) Applying this concept to other places, I wonder if we recognize the similarity before identify difference, will people have a better mutual understanding and be more willing to start a conversation? (For example, before identifying the difference in religion, if people can share the similarity in cultures, then maybe lots of distrust can be eliminated much easier.)
5. Talk to your audience! At business schools, the training is about to think like CEOs. However, most of the time we are not really talking to CEOs. Make sure that you know who your audiences are, what they care and how you can help them on their jobs. (For example, when your counterpart is a marketing director, he/she might care about consumer insights way much more than fancy prototypes you create for him/her. Do not always use a single CEO lens to create your presentation!)