Can collaboration work


“With the many complex and subtle differences between Americans and Germans, can their collaboration even work, or at least work well?”


Of course their collaboration can work. It works day in and day out. In many companies, large and small. In all disciplines. At all levels. Involving tens of thousands of Americans and Germans. And all this for generations.

In fact, America was built by Germans. Not only by Germans, by many other national cultures, also. But very much so, very strongly so, by Germans. America continues to be a work in progress. America continues to be built by Germans. Just as America and Americans have great influence on today’s Germany.

So, of course Germans and Americans can succeed in their collaboration. And without thinking about the many complex and subtle differences between them.

But that is not the question, or not the more important question. Which is: due to the differences is there potential for misunderstanding, for their collaboration underperforming? The better the two national cultures understand each other, the better they can anticipate and prevent – or a least minimize – problems.

An even bigger, forward-looking question, however, is how can we best combine our inherent strengths?

The better we understand at a deeper level the differences in how we think, therefore act, the better position we are in to consciously combine our inherent strengths. And that’s where the great potential lies in our collaboration, in our differences!

This is not a paradox. Differences are a strength. If understood and put to work.

Yes certainly, there have been problems. Daimler-Chrysler was one of the biggest disasters in recent years. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, failed utterly and totally in Germany, Europe’s largest consumer market. And there are other examples of failed, or greatly underperforming, cross-Atlantic combinations.

And in every company, large and small, in which Germans and Americans collaborate, there are things going wrong, not moving forward, colleagues in disagreement, battles over power, projects which are over budget, over schedule, delivering poor results.

We just don’t read about them in the Wall St. Journal, in the Handelsblatt or in other business news publications. These mini-disasters occur within companies, out of view of press and public.

If we’re honest – Americans and Germans – we know that the collaboration is not easy. It will never be easy. But collaboration is not about “easy”, it’s about joining forces in order to accomplish great things. If it’s great, it’s not easy. Who wants easy?

Can collaboration work