Game Day – Act 6

Why Game Day in Germany failed

What Mark & Co. did not know is that game day in Germany is not the same as game day in the U.S. And that Germans persuade differently than Americans. Which, in turn, means that they are persuaded differently, allow themselves to be persuaded differently.

The Germans reacted ambivalently. On the one side, Mark and his team came across as energetic, personal, as believers in their mission. They put themselves on the line, meaning they put heart and soul into the project. This all was seen positively. For the Germans also have strong emotions, identify themselves intensely with their work, especially when it comes to technology. And they often want to show these emotions to each other, to their customers, and to the world.

But they are taught to be objective, unemotional, to separate self from substance. Only seldom do Germans put themselves front and center. For them „arguments should speak for themself,“ which is the exact opposite of „sell yourself, then your product or service.“

So in the end their reaction to the sell-yourself-first approach was more negative than positive. Germans become wary and skeptical. They view Americans as putting on a show, as substituting form for substance. In some cases, they suspect that Americans intentionally try to distract their audience from the weakness of their arguments.

Also, Germans reject any attempt to play on emotions, to „push the buttons“, in the sense of identifying the emotional drivers of the audience without that audience realizing it, and then manipulating those drivers.

Nor were the German convinced that their U.S. colleagues had truly penetrated the complexity of the subject matter. Several potential problems were not even addressed, much less in detail. Again and again the Americans used euphemisms. If there is a problem Germans expect to hear the word problem and not challenge or issue.

They zeroed on contradictions, also. Germans are taught to look for illogical statements, for gaps in reasoning. They‘re very proud to be known as Schwachstellenanalytiker, literally weak-point-analysts. They expect the stringent methods of analysis.

The bottom-line is that Mark and his team did not come across as competent. They did not meet the high standards which their Germans colleagues set for themselves, therefore for the Americans. In some instances they found their American colleagues to be rather naive. The picture they painted was too positive, too hopeful.

In addition, the Germans did not recognize any kind of systematic approach. Individual questions and factors were analyzed, but not wholistically. The pieces of the puzzle were there, but no understanding of the entire puzzle. It was what Germans call Stückwerk or patchwork.

And all the talk of experience, war stories etc. was interesting, at times even entertaining, but not relevant. Where is the data and analysis explaining the experience, they wondered. And a lot of over-simplification. The Germans felt that their U.S. colleagues did not question critically enough the fundamental operating assumptions of the project.

The overall thrust of the presentations, as well as in the talks with the various departments, was future oriented. This was expected. Germans, too, know how to envision a future. But Mark and his team failed to convince them that they had a clear definition of the starting point, of the status quo. The Germans feared that they would find themselves rushing in the wrong direction.

Especially in terms of market trends and customer developments they sensed strongly that their American colleagues did not do enough thinking about what the changes would mean longer-term for the overall product portfolio. The Germans were anxious about changes moving the company off the path of the last two decades. Germans value continuity very highly, preferring careful, incremental change instead of big jumps.

In the German business context Mark and his team‘s job was to inform their German colleagues in depth and in breadth. Instead they gave a total sales presentation, pushing for a decision. The Germans purposely did not react. They felt it was far too early to give any indication. Germans seldom make important decisions based on presentations. Instead, the presentations kick off the internal decision making process.

In addition, they sensed that the Americans did not always tell the full story. They recognized certain weakpoints rather early, but expected Mark and his team to address them. They waited, then probed a bit. A few of the Germans began to suspect that the Americans might be holding back critical information.

Do the reasons above seem plausible? Are there any other reasons for why Mark and his American colleagues failed?

Game Day – Act 6