Trends in Organizational Learning concept LO29382

From: Alfred Rheeder (
Date: 10/24/02

Replying to LO29369 --

Mark wrote:

> I'm starting a new project
> with a group all working in different places. We swap modes between chat,
> phone, email, web cam and face to face meetings (where we exchange mind
> maps using infra red on PocketPC's). The trick seems to be to learn to use
> the appropriate medium/s for the appropriate exchanges. For example we
> drifted into a somewhat heated and difficult email exchange over several
> about some shareholder decisions that would have been much better worked
> through face to face. Some of these mediums seem to take on a life and
> momentum of their own.

Mark, I agree about the importance of learning to use appropriate medium's
for appropriate exchanges or rather understanding the limitations of using
certain medium's in specific/certain circumstances. The more complex the
situation at hand, the less appropriate electronic exchanges will become.
I hope we realise the serious constraints of communicating information or
learning digitally.

Language is also a medium. I would like to share the following. Some
time ago we had negotiations/discussions with a person that is very high
up in a specific tribal hierarchy in South Africa. The specific nation
still has a complex social hierarchy, system and culture with a King
functioning as the head of the tribe. English was the language used
during the discussions. English is not the mother tongue of either parties
- therefore alot of obscurities are layered in our articulations.
Understanding the complex social dynamics of the other party was important
to us. Fortunately I was briefed in advance. The following formed part of
the brief for example.

Do not look the person in the eye when speaking and greeting. Only look
the person briefly in the eye under certain conditions xyz... otherwise
you will be regarded as showing disrespect, a lack of fear and "strength".
Do not speak directly to the person but speak through the person that will
be regarded as the most senior member of your delegation, even when spoken
to directly. Etc.

These social and cultural dynamics were completely alien to me, but I
realise how important it was to understand and respect their culture and
social system as much as possible. During the first 30 minutes of the
discussions I realised that we are talking in vein to each other. The
other party had not sensitivity for our social and cultural background.

Not only is the identity of the medium important but the context of that
medium too ........


Alfred Rheeder


Alfred Rheeder <>

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