Xiaoming, a product manager at an international gaming company, is very nervous on his first day. His manager briefs him on expectations and current projects. Xiaoming walks out of the meeting still a little confused but doesn’t want to ask any questions that may seem stupid.
Based on his previous experience, he thinks enhancing user experience is always the key and so he decides to ask his team to improve some in-app features. After working hard for a week or so, the features are done. When his business development colleagues are testing the features, they tell him that actually, these aren’t what customers are asking for. His manager says he doesn’t communicate well enough with the other departments.
Even though Xiaoming isn’t a real person, it’s likely many people have encountered a similar situation. Not only does China’s fast-paced tech industry have to deal with different cultural backgrounds but also high turnover rates.
On April 12th, at Day Day Up Sanlitun, Beijing, Beatrix Frisch, China General Manager at Mackevision, a German computer-generated imagery company, and Timothy Chen, head of international product at Mobike, shared their experience of how to best solve cross-discipline communication problems.
This helps people understand the current situation and drive clarity. Frisch stressed the importance of asking questions and emphasized that “there are no stupid questions but only stupid answers.”
“Sometimes what people want is actually what they don’t know they want, and they don’t know that,” said Chen. By always asking questions, both parties can have a clearer idea of what they both want.
Also, asking questions is an effective way for newcomers to familiarize themselves with the new environments. Starting her career in the auto industry and now as the manager at a CGI company, Frisch said this helped her to work in different fields.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
The larger the team, the more necessary communication is. Even when doing the same project, people can have different expectations. One might think this is to drive user growth and the other might want to improve the experience for existing users. After deciding which goal the team should be after, it’ll be easier to set the priorities straight. Specific tips? Chen suggested a team newsletter.
As she specializes in business-to-business communications, Frisch said she would apply the “show-not-tell” tactics. When clients demand some fascinating effects beyond their budget, Frisch will directly show them what outcomes are possible within their existing budgets, and, according to her, this works.
This is for whoever works in a cross-culture environment. The complexity of communicating increases with the number of cultures involved. For instance, talking to people in different times zones requires excellent time management skills. As to working with people from different cultural backgrounds, more important than speaking both languages is understanding the cultural differences.
“Just be patient,” Chen smiled and sighed at the same time, and the crowd understood.
First to survive and aesthetics later
There’s usually some “I can change the world” spirit when starting an enterprise, but at some point, team members should be aware that they are running a business and need to make a profit sooner or later.
Comradeship among colleagues is good, but setting up clear but flexible key performance indicators (KPIs) are more than necessary. This will remind the team of the goals of the business. However, it’s also essential to set flexible KPIs, because the business model for an early stage start-up hasn’t been settled yet.
“When people do beautiful things for the sake of doing beautiful things, it’s not a good thing,” Chen said, “because you are not Google.”