Creating Innovations Through Collaboration Across Cultures

There are many reasons to consider culture when planning for innovation. Although there is a place for conflict in innovation, good planning can be used to avoid unnecessary friction that can inhibit or deflect the greatest benefits from the shared insights and perspectives of different cultures.

Collaboration across cultures can be accomplished through careful planning of strategies, techniques and processes that make use of technology, communication systems, collaborative problem solving methods and organizational structures. However, culture can also play a role in reducing the cost and complexity of implementation.

Traditional approaches to problem solving usually look at differences in personality styles and emotions as causes for gaps in productivity. It is argued that individuals differ in how they express their needs, and that these personality styles affect the level of effort people put forth in problem solving. There is also much debate about whether people differ in how they learn, and if so, what types of learning style and how strongly or weak each individual’s ability to learn. Differences in cultural norms across cultures may also impede or even cause differences in productivity, since different ways of doing things may be perceived by members of different cultures. There are many theories and studies on the relationship between culture and innovation, but no one has yet determined exactly why collaboration across cultures is beneficial.

In planning and implementing an innovation strategy, it is important to consider how differences in culture could impact implementation. The best approach would be to look at culture as a giving compass, which can provide a dynamic snapshot of the different way people work, communicate and get along. While it is easy to say that cultures and differences don’t matter in an organization, research shows that they do matter. In addition to providing a framework for understanding organizational issues that surround the issues of cultural diversity, a giving compass can guide the organization in finding the right solutions to optimize the value and effectiveness of collaboration across cultures. In this way, collaboration can be a powerful force for generating innovation.