Monday, August 7, 2017


How Americans approach general brain-storming and decision-making may require you to make some adjustments, depending on your native culture.

Americans pride themselves on egalitarian values. They speak freely in meetings and may offer unsolicited comments to others, including the boss.

Americans do not defer greatly to their “superiors” –bosses, team leaders, teachers, etc. In many circumstances, they may call authority figures by their first names. In meetings the leader may mingle easily with the group, sitting randomly with them in no particular seat of importance or place at the table. The boss may work in an open space together with everyone else, rather than being separated in a closed private office. In this way, the leader is open to the varying points of view, ideas and proposals of others as the team works out a solution.

But you may sometimes observe a confusing twist: While enjoying free expression, Americans also value speed and quick decision making, so they may shift quickly from their role as free-speaking individuals to towing the line as team players.

When faced with a problem, the boss may briefly entertain opinions from others but then suddenly announce his/her own decision on the matter. At that point everyone willingly falls in line as team players and gets the process going. But then again, as the work unfolds, an egalitarian pattern of free expression returns, with everyone evaluating the decision and perhaps suggesting variants of what was initially decided.

This sequence is central to American decision-making, that is: quick to make a top-down decision, but then to painstakingly tweak that decision, refine it, and end up with something that is creatively inspired after being tested and thoroughly considered.

By contrast, hierarchical countries like Japan and even Germany will follow a very different model, with potentially quite different results! Next time we’ll address this.