In an increasingly globalized market, more and more companies are partnering with teams in different parts of the world to engage their customers on a larger scale. Virtual collaboration is enabling many teams to execute their projects faster and more affordably—and very often, the resulting exchange of ideas leads to broadened perspectives and more effective solutions.
However, we all know that few collaborative processes—remote or not—are without moments of frustration. Factor in greater distance and cultural differences, explains Globe Ally Co-Founder Philip Mascher, and the likelihood of misunderstanding becomes even higher.
Philip has spent his 25+ year career helping leading brands leverage diverse perspectives to create successful products and experiences; and today at Globe Ally, he's giving companies around the world the tools to do the same through remote collaboration. In this interview, Philip speaks with us about the deep benefits of team diversity, and what we can do as individuals and companies to turn the biggest challenges of globalized teamwork into powerful opportunities.
Q: How is globalization impacting how teams function and collaborate?
We live in an amazing time of escalating change worldwide. Globalization and technology advances bring along a need for increased collaboration amongst ever more diverse teams, whether they’re local, national or international. This can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be frustrating.
The market’s ever-faster pace, and the necessity to effectively communicate with people in different locations and contexts—cultural, gender, age, linguistic, social, religious, and other factors—often results in a lot of stress. Stress is the most common reaction when our expectations on communications and other behaviors are not met.
When we’re stressed, our brain goes into a “fight or flight” reaction. Our entire physical system is impacted: our vision becomes narrower, our blood pressure rises, breathing becomes shallow, our ability to listen and communicate is impeded. In this state, communication failures and misunderstandings abound, which in turn leads to more fear and stress—it’s a vicious cycle.
Q: How do you help companies collaborate successfully across these diverse contexts?
Effective communications amongst teams and team members are one of the top aspects of success, both commercially and from an organizational and individual perspective. Organizations that communicate well work better, and individuals that communicate well are happier and stay in their jobs longer.
At Globe Ally, we've worked with international teams that were at a constant state of conflict, even actively working against each other. We’ve helped them come together around common goals and do amazing work together, while also reaching new states of happiness and satisfaction with their work.
This kind of process starts with an assessment, typically a number of employee interviews. The assessment gives the basis of a program that can consist of cross-cultural training, team visioning workshops, organizational change management, or other processes that help teams and individuals members align on aspects like goals, values, procedures, nomenclature.
Ultimately, effective communications are based on trust and acceptance of each other. In order to trust and accept others, we first need to understand ourselves – our own cultural values, biases, expectations, and assumptions. It all starts with self-awareness: once we understand and can verbalize our own context, we have a much improved ability to understand others’ different contexts, and we can communicate about the differences. It's been amazing to see what happens when we build bridges to help people understand each other better.
Q: What are some of the tactics companies can use to build user engagement in a multi-channel ecosystem?
Rather than trying to outrace the fragmentation with ever more fragmented content and more research, I see enormous power in reversing the equation. Don't try to push the right message out, that is the old thought model from mass communication days, but find ways to invite consumers into the narrative, to contribute their own stories, ideas and ways to engage with the brand.
As an example for this, when I was marketing director at Nutcase Helmets I started the Unframed Artist Collaboration. We invited people around the globe to submit ideas for new helmet graphics. We got submissions from all over the world, and the traffic threatened to bring our servers down, because everyone who submitted work engaged their entire personal network in the campaign.
We picked three submissions that were produced as commercial helmets, and then invited the artists to join us at the world’s two largest bike shows, Eurobike in Germany and Interbike in Vegas. At the shows, they created murals live in front of the crowds, that were then auctioned off at the end of the shows to benefit World Bicycle Relief. We never looked at a customer experience journey, or did research on customer needs; we just invited people to actively participate in the brand, and couldn't believe the passion and engagement with which we were rewarded.
Q: What kinds of qualities are you seeing consumers look for when choosing which brands to engage with?
It’s exciting to see more brands taking their own position on lifestyle, social, even political issues. My sense is that as products become faster copy-able and thus ever more similar, consumers answer by valuing experiences higher than things. The meta product - what a brand or product stands for - becomes ever more important.
Especially in these confusingly divisive and volatile times, people want to associate themselves with brands that play a more meaningful role in their lives. Some brands see these opportunities, and find the courage and creativity to take a position on the urgent issues of the day, sometimes even re-defining cultural aspects rather than just merely reflecting them. The REI Black Friday campaign is a great example, REI can believably say that they want people to get out into nature rather than spending a free day shopping, it fits their values even down to the business goals.
What's important in these kinds of efforts is to make sure that the stance taken truly is reflected in the brands core values. If it has any whiff of appropriation, the response from consumers will be swift and harsh.
Learn more about Philip's company, Globe Ally, here.