We live and work in the so-called Information Age. How information is generated, analyzed, and shared is critical to success. The success of individual teams, organizations, and entire companies. But wait. There are differences in how Germans and Americans fundamentally handle information.
Information as Power
Germans believe that the mere possession of information can provide almost the same value as its conversion into action. In Germany knowing can be as advantageous as doing.
Americans believe that information is of value only to the extent that it can be converted into action. In the United States knowing and doing always beats just knowing.
Get vs. Give
Holschuld: Hol from holen, to get + Schuld meaning debt. Holschuld means get-debt or get-obligation. In Germany if a colleague has information important to your work you are obligated to request that information.
The German term which describes the American logic is Bringschuld: Bring from bringen, to get; Schuld means debt. Bringschuld means give-debt or give-obligation. In the U.S. if a colleague has information important to your work that person is obligated to provide that information.
When it comes to sharing information Germans work from their core team outwards. With each outer organisational concentric circle they become more careful, at times even wary.
Americans make less of a distinction between their core team and teams in ever wider organisational concentric circles. They believe that information fundamentally belongs to the entire company.
Role in Teamwork
Germans see knowledge as the team’s primary capital. They are keen to protect and expand their knowledge base. This makes them particularly sensitive to how and with whom that capital is shared.
In American teams information is the lifeblood of communication. Any breakdown in information flow means a breakdown in communication. And that quickly becomes a threat to the team’s overall success.