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08 Aug, Monday
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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Swiss and Finnish dialogue and working cultures



Kirjoittanut: Susanna Mäkelä - tiimistä Samoa.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 12 minuuttia.

This essay was written by Swiss teampreneus Alexandre Crespo & Victor Salvadori from In&Co and a Finnish teampreneur Susanna Mäkelä from Samoa Projektit Osk.

Introduction

The experience the IN&CO team has lived for three weeks in Tampere has been a huge learning part of the second semester. Out of our Swiss comfort zone by speaking English, meeting new students or living abroad, we discovered new manners of working, thinking and sharing together through communication.
As soon as we came back in Switzerland, we wanted to reflect on this experimentation and keep or create something from what we learned there. Through this international article we collaborate with Susanna Mäkelä a Finnish student from team Samoa we met to analyze the different way, both teams were discussing and working together. Relying on social science, our problem and achievements, we analyze the most differences or similarities between Swiss and Finnish dialogue and working cultures.

Experiences

Two opposite ways of thinking One of the biggest challenges during our cooperation was communication and our goals regarding it. The Swiss teampreneurs were more used to quick decisions to make and move forward whereas the Finnish teampreneurs wanted to think about the task more thoroughly. The Finnish teampreneurs wanted more silence in between topics and sentences. This can be noticed in Laura Nordström’s thesis, too, when she writes about the differences between German and Finnish ways of discussing. From this thesis, we can consider German people pretty similar to Swiss people according to the cultural types from “The Lewis Model” Omar Youssef presented during his workshop. Both are linear active in opposition to Scandinavians who look a little bit more reactive. For this reason in the Finnish culture, silence is considered a key element in improving the thinking process behind the dialogue, but some of the Swiss people found it uncomfortable when it happened during conversations. In Proakatemia, people are guided towards a thinking process rather than quick decision-making. So, it seems there were two different types of goals behind our dialogue.

How did the Swiss teampreneurs organize a learning session?

When comparing the Finnish and the Swiss learning sessions, there are some differences to be found. During the Swiss team In&Co’s visit, we had the chance to experience both Swiss and Finnish ways of organizing a learning session. Team Samoa found that the Swiss version was much more structured and contained a lot more information and data. According to an article written by Megan Janicke, the Swiss business meetings are efficient and focused with a strict agenda. The meeting aims for a quickly built consensus and everyone is expected to contribute. During the learning sessions, the Swiss teampreneurs didn’t share anything regarding their personal life or experiences. The conversation stayed on the matter at hand. Regarding team In&Co, this last element is something that should be improved according to the several remarks made by the coach Lionel Emery on this key point.

How was the dialogue?

One of the biggest challenges during our cooperation was communication. The first days of co-working were difficult for Swiss team who didn’t understand why Finnish people were not much participating and didn’t appear to be really involved in the project. These misunderstandings are quite similar to Carbaugh thesis (2006) expressing the different cultural points of view between a Finnish exchange student living in an American family whom father reacting to her silence because the student was just listening to the dialogues without being verbally involved. Within the Swiss learning session one of the Swiss teampreneurs, Omar, organized a workshop about cultural differences. In the learning session, there was some discussion in the beginning within the small groups. During the workshop there was much less discussion/dialogue and more Omar teaching us and leading the conversation. The dialogue within the Swiss team was much more fast paced compared to the Finnish dialogue. The Finnish learning sessions in general are more focused on dialogue and improving our thinking together. We rarely have someone teaching others in the form of workshops. The “dialogitimantti” (in English the Dialogue Diamond) is a model that team Samoa aim for. It contains four elements: Listen, Respect, Wait for your turn and Speak straight from the heart. In the Finnish team Samoa, it’s not unusual to show vulnerability and talk about emotions or past experiences during a learning session. The Finnish learning session could be a 4-hour-long dialogue about money or psychological safety without any structure, leader or teacher. In the learning session, the aim would be not to discuss but to build upon what has already been said and bring something new to the table.
To summarize, Swiss teampreneurs were more used to quick decisions to make and move forward whereas the Finnish teampreneurs wanted to think about the task more thoroughly. The Finnish teampreneurs wanted more silence in between topics and sentences. The silence was considered a key element in improving the thinking process behind the dialogue. In Proakatemia we are guided towards the thinking process rather than quick decision-making. So we could say that there are two different types of motivations or goals behind the dialogue.
If we cannot make generalities and the Samoa team is only the micro reflection of the whole Finnish culture (macro), these words presenting this silence and time for thinking as a natural way of being reflected what the Swiss team learned the most from this dialogue culture :

“Communication in Finland can be described in one sentence, if you’ve got nothing to say: shut up. If you, on the other hand, have something to say, say it straight, brutal but truthful, whatever it is. Don’t try any slick small talk. Again the Finnish culture shows not only its elegance but also its efficiency, wordless communication is, in fact, always the most truthful.”

Carbaugh, D., 2006 Coding Personhood Through Cultural Terms and Practices, Silence and Quietude as a Finnish “Natural Way of Being”

What’s about collaboration?

According to a thesis written by Laura Nordström Befalling of Finnish and German organizational culture in a joint venture published in 2010 Nordström writes that when two different cultures collide in a business setting, one might ignore the ways the other party achieves goals and deals with human processes in the running of the business. The expectations might be different but also contradictory. The incompatibility of the two business parties can be as high of a risk as a financial incompatibility. (Nordström 2010, 17.) The co-operation with the Finnish and the Swiss teampreneurs was fruitful despite our challenges in the beginning. One thing Susanna learned personally as a second-year Finnish teampreneur is that assuming things about a project or other people can be detrimental. In retrospect, she feels like the Finnish teampreneurs acted as if the Swiss and the Finnish were actually very similar people. In the Finnish team, it seems nobody took into consideration the fact that both cultures are different when it comes to business, and all should have paid more attention to this. Assuming things can be as harmful as poor communication. At some point at least in the Finnish team, we were blinded by the stress that came with not always knowing what was happening and the lack of understanding why other people did things differently.” Nordström describes this phenomenon in her thesis. According to her findings noticing the differences in the middle of a business project can cause a need to hold on to your own habits and defend it. Because we are so used to doing things our way, it can be hard to let go and open your mind to learn another way – a new way. (Nordström 2010, 18.) For her, the tight-time schedule was one of the reasons the teampreneurs got frustrated. Although we had three weeks, one week was the Finnish teampreneurs’ winter holiday and during that time we were not participating in the project. According to Edgar Schein, there are three possible models when combining organizational cultures: the cultures are separate, one of the cultures in dominant or the culture mix (Schein 2009, 22-25). Based Susanna’s experience as a Finnish teampreneur she feels like in a joint project the cultures stayed separate. It seems there is a lot of potential in mixing two cultures and get them working together. In this way people could achieve much more. This would require more collaboration, communication and working together in projects.

Learning and applications:

On this part of the article, we are going to focus on the learning we had in Finland and how we are going to implement some of them in our team.
Talk more about emotions
As written earlier in the Swiss team, we are not the most communicative with our feeling. It was a particular challenge during the first months of the formation to share the emotions (frustrations, tension and even happiness) we had. Even now there are a lot of things we are still not exchanging; those things are significantly impacting our ways to work together. For this reason, we can’t be considerate as a team but more as a group of individuals.
To start to be a real team we will need to let emerge more of these feeling and stop hiding behind the fact to be nice to anyone. We had once these discussions in class where we needed to point directly what we thought didn’t work during the St-Catherine. This exercise was effectfull because it gives us the possibility to tell exactly what we taught. Some words were maybe hard to accept but the learning we had from these sessions were better than any theoretical support we had until now.
So, for the future we could do more often sessions and workshops where we talk about our emotions and tell directly if there is a problem (exterior or in the class). To be more precise we should try to tell the source of the problem even if it is someone in the class.
Adopting the diamond conversation could help us to talk about the feelings and problems, we try to hide because we are too afraid to share difficult social matter.
With Victor we will do a learning sharing about the schema.

Do a session with only two themes

Including only two subjects in our session of discussion as the Finish Team would give to our class a deeper understanding of a subject. The difference with a session of formation would be that everyone would have to bring correlate information in a playful (or not) way. I talked about that with Ema and she had kind of the same idea for our LI. Which would be to work on an important subject in subdividing it in many LI.
It would be great to make half of a session about soft skills like this we could be able to work on our feeling and the blockage we encounter.
The difference that I want with our discussion session and the Finnish one is to have a theoretical preparation in advance.
It could be great that at least one session by semester follows those values.

  1. Select two themes, one of soft skill and one of hard skill
  2. Write on sharing doc (Google sheet) what is the theory that you want to develop.
  3. Focus on skills that we could develop directly after the session.
  4. Prepare your intervention in the two themes
  5. Do 1 hour 45 minutes to each subject

Try to do less for better (lecture)

During the lecture of Ema 80/20, I realize that the Finnish team was doing quite the same. Even if we sometimes thought that they were slow on their way to manage a project. We may not have understood the meaning behind this. Doing less for more result.

Moments of silence

We Swiss guys are always in a rush when we communicate, we like to cut the speech to someone else when he is speaking because we believe we have something more interesting to say. The Finnish team knows the importance to let the other speak and to use silence as an advantage.
I believe in the power of silence even if it’s not imaginable to have a silence between each intervention, I believe we may ask more often to one minute of silence when to have a big decision to take or some conflicts. We do way to often a lot of “ping-pong” (1 vs. 1) when we need to discuss a serious matter and it has no rest for the rest of the students to form their opinion.
It would be great to give the power to the facilitator to ask for moments of silence or to anyone who feels the need. And when we start to debate with emotion to have a bell to manifest the decontrol.

How did we manage the communication with the Finnish team?

The communication with the Finnish team showed that we are missing a lot in our own communication.
First, I want to put in light the mistakes we made before and during the learning travel and then I will give some improvement clues that we should follow if we want to keep a meaningful relationship with the Finnish team.
So, what has done wrong in the process?
We learned during our trip there that the team Samoa wasn’t expecting to work with us on the project. They understood that they were only going to support us to adjust to the finish market.
Even if Mathias and Karim made some calls with the Finnish team before our journey, it wasn’t clear enough for them how we were going to manage our future project participation.
I believe it would have been better beforehand to write on paper the decision as this both teams can read it after and confirm it. One person in both teams represent the class and say if yes or no they are agreeing with what is written.
Or to write them an email with all the decision we had at last calls. Then they must respond and accept it or not. However, the problem with this situation is that we must manage the relation and it’s not anymore, a collaboration.
But one thing we must do the next time we want to create a project with another team is to direct the concept it with them. Like this, they will have a real interest in participating in it.
We also had during the journey some moments of misunderstanding one of them was during the schedualisation of the Swiss hot fondue event. Ema had asked if it was fine for the Finnish team to work all evening during the manifestation, they were “agreeing” at the moment but when she gave everyone the schedule of the night one of the Teamsters from Finland said it was not fine for them to work all day when they wanted to be only a support for us.
Creating a Gantt by sector would have taken time in the beginning but it would have been a great tool to be sure that everyone can participate and confirmed the disponibility and the objectives of everyone. But before making this plan, it’s necessary to know the expectations and desires of the team.

And at the end of each session, during the feedback, validate if everything has been done correctly.
On the next page, I will explain how we are going to create a better communication with the Samoa team.

Collaboration

Preparation

The most important is to keep a meaningful relation with the team Samoa. To do so we had the idea of a panel of activities (below) that will help to continue our actual collaboration and find ways to improving it.
The question is how are we going to cooperate to achieve this objective? And what are the steps?
We will need with Lucas Perrenoud and Léonard Monnier to change the interlocutor from Mathias to us. Saara will still be the person relating information to the Samoa Team. At the moment we have reinitiated contact with Saara and we are planning a reunion to discuss about our future collaboration. The main point will be to find our objectives during this semester.
To set some great bases to our online collaboration we wanted to set some recommendation to ameliorate our communication and stand out subjects that may affect everyone.
The first « rules » are :

  • Settle two weeks in advance, the hour and the day of the meeting
  • A plan of the session needs to be proposed at the same moment. They will have three days to ask for a change of points.
  • If there is some preparation work, the people need to be informed at the same time as the release of the plan of the session.
  • The people who are present need to validate their presence on a Google sheet (or other not decided yet)
Sessions

First, I believe it’s better to focus on the subject that has a direct matter on the academic part of our studies. Projects and essays seem to be the best decision to start our collaboration.
It would be nice to have a least session a month and not be longer than one hour and a half.
We will also need to rethink our check-in and check out to see if they still have reason to exist or to find another way to express them. For example, it could be voluntary if someone wants to do it but imagining 35 people doing would take too much time.
I will also have to talk soon to the class (week 28 March to 1 April) about the possible future collaboration and to know if it still interests them.
How are we going to develop the first two meetings?
It is important to me to organize this event as soon as possible otherwise, as I know, we are going to fall in all the deadlines of the end of this semester and no one will have time to book.
During the first meeting, I would like to do a real tour of all our projects. And everyone explains what their situation is, good, bad, amelioration and challenges we face. After each presentation, all the teamsters would have a moment to ask questions and give feedback.
The second discussion would be for essays and find themes that teampreneurs could work on together. We could also include two lectures that was meaningful for someone.
The session will need to have some fun otherwise the students may feel a bit discouraged even more than those sessions won’t necessarily count projects/work hours to everyone. So, we will find some great energizer.

Ideas of themes that we could address during lessons

Here are some ideas of work and activities we could do during those next conferences.
Activities work

  • Digital PAYA
  • Discussion and collaboration to write essays.
  • Exchanging about the books we read

Projects

  • Doing a full check-up of some project and giving them feedback
  • Working for companies (24h client) together
  • Or asking for advice on a mandate
  • Make an international projects

Other

  • Include the coach of the monthly meeting
  • They want to travel to Switzerland so they will need to do some money

Ideas Workshop:

  • Learning by the doing, match between the expectation and the real goal
  • Team spirit, sharing common goals/vision
  • Why is that important to know deeply your teammate
  • We don’t have the right attitude sometime. How to separate work and fun?
  • When stereotypes become a problem, how to fight against that?
  • How to express your weakness and your abilities (without shame)?
    • Working in Duo (strength and weakness)
  • How to develop a healthy communication
  • Say it when you don’t agree!
  • Giving and getting feedback
  • How to be more effective

Some workshop could also be more technical. The Finnish team told us their need to learn more theoretical knowledge. We could, for example, explain what we learned during our formation sessions. Or sharing some reading on marketing strategy.

Activities fun

  • Need to find ideas
  • Energizer, kahoot, quiz by Teams

So what are the next steps we can do to ameliorate the situation in In&Co with the knowledge of Finland?
Next actions/deadlines:

  • Do a presentation to our class and see if they are still motivated to do some webinars with the Samoa team. 28 March.
  • First meeting to organize the next two sessions week from 28 March.
  • First meeting with the two classes in the middle of the month of April

Conclusion

As we have seen in the last pages, the most important things in this essay are the learning we are going to keep from our experience in Finlande. And how we are going to manage to put them in place to improve our class behavior. It may look as a long and deep task, but we are going to do our best to keep challenging the class from those learning.

 

Sources:
Nordström, L. 2010. Suomalaisen ja saksalaisen yrityskulttuurin kohtaaminen yhteisyrityksessä. Opinnäytetyö. Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu. https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/19365/Nordstrom_Laura.pdf;jsessionid=4EF9B10D92F1E6D297DCC2AB43DBAAF8?sequence=1 Schein, E. 2009. Yrityskulttuuri – selviytymisopas, tietoa ja luuloja kulttuurimuutoksesta. Tampere. Esa Print Oy.
Janicke, M. 2022. Business culture in Switzerland. Expatica. Read on 16.3.2022. https://www.expatica.com/ch/working/employment-basics/switzerland-business-culture-102447/#culture
Lewis, R., 2005, When cultures collide
Carbaugh, D., 2006 Coding Personhood Through Cultural Terms and Practices, Silence and Quietude as a Finnish “Natural Way of Being”

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