Differences


One clip. Four min.

You cannot integrate what you do not understand. Stated more precisely: You cannot integrate effectively what you do not understand deeply.

Let me illustrate this. By addressing ten differences between Americans and Germans. Differences which influence the success of their collaboration. To be brief, I will paint with a very broad brush.

Communication
English. For Americans their mother tongue. For Germans a foreign language. Same terms, different definitions. Americans and Germans think they understand each other. Often they do not.

Agreements
Big. Small. Complex. Simple. In the U.S. agreements are fluid, flexible, provisional. In Germany, agreed is agreed, your word is your bond. When agreements break down, so does collaboration. Agreements between Americans and Germans often break down.

Persuasion
There can be no action without a decision to act. And there can be no decision without choosing among options to act. Options have to be presented. To present is to persuade. But Americans and Germans persuade differently.

Decision Making
Again, no action without a decision to act. But Americans isolate decisions. Whereas Germans link them together. Americans are pragmatic. Germans scientific. The weaker the consensus about a decision, the weaker the commitment to its execution.

Leadership
Germans lead like soccer coaches. Americans lead like football coaches. Soccer isn’t football. Germans see American team leads as micromanagers. Americans see German team leads as empty suits. Neither side feels fully comfortable with the other. Coaches and players, who are not on the same page, lose games.

Feedback
And you can’t win games if you don’t know what the score is. More precisely, if you don’t have the same understanding of what the score is. The two cultures keep score differently. Germans are deflationary. Americans inflationary. Each side thinks the other is not fully in touch with reality.

Conflict
Both cultures are capable, proud, and strong-willed. They don’t like to be wrong. And they don’t like to lose. Americans quickly escalate conflict to the next management level. Germans avoid escalation to the next level at all costs. Conflicts often go unresolved. Leading to low-level warfare.

Product
The battle of product philosophies is a battle of titans. Americans build to specification. Germans build to the ideal. Their ideal. Both are right. Both are wrong. When they fight, the customer loses out. And that has negative impact on the bottom-line.

Process
For Germans product is the key to success. Because processes govern how product is made, they want to have the say about processes. For Americans the customer is key to success. Because customers drive what products are made, they want to have the say about sales and marketing.

Customer
Americans believe that the customer is king. Germans reject any form of master-slave relationship. Both cultures keep the other away from their customers. A combined approach, however, is possible. And it would easily beat the one or the other approach.