Work and World Soccer
by Dr. Karen
colleague of mine in Hamburg Germany noticed that something had
changed in the German soccer team. The Germans had been playing a
very defensive and often boring game as have other European
teams. But this World Cup event the Germans hired a coach who is
German but has been living in the United States. This move caused
huge discussions and criticisms in Germany. The new coach changed
the style of play to a much more aggressive and confrontational one
with more individual initiative.
This change in
coaches led my friend to think about the differences between
European and American styles of problem solving. Americans tend to
want to tackle the issue and Europeans may want to defer to
authority figures or expect that basic problems must wait for the
state to do something. My colleague personally experienced this
approach at work in the UK when he was told he could have access to
data from the files to do a project. An Australian and this American
worked together to get the data in front of them along with the
pictures from the archives. Getting the actual information gave
them a better “handle” on what they needed as they handled samples
and pictures. The person holding the data brought the two
researchers lots of examples from different projects in the past and
then they got an ad hoc group together to discuss their findings.
When the top executive of their group found out what they were doing
he want ballistic. They were doing something without permission and
“they might be excluding important people” from their study group.
They were being too “American.” Yes, my American friend took the
lead on this.
American, he just wanted to solve problems and get things done.
It’s very American to think that you have to get it done personally
and not thrust the responsibility or include others or defer to
authority. Taking initiative and being recognized is very American
too! So forgive Americans when they insist that’s the way to do
things. Alas, sometimes Americans think that this is the only way.
My Dutch colleagues will tell you that consensus building is the
only way. We each have our preferred styles and ways of problem
solving that work. You need to know what’s right for where you work.