As our nation becomes increasingly more diverse we will be presented with the challenge of understanding our cultural differences. The purpose of this paper is to develop and design a learning project that compares cultural differences of two ethnic/cultural groups. For the purposes of this project we will compare the differences between Asian and Western cultures. The project will be based on the cultural impact of performance in workforce, production, sales, customer services, etc.
Before we can create a learning project we must first understand the cultural backgrounds of both groups.
The economic boom seen in various Asian countries during the 90's called into question the work ethic and cultural values that made these nations successful. One of the most definitive explanations for the work values that are prevalent in Asia, especially China, has been attributed to the concept of Confucianism. Confucianism is the dominant school of thought in China. This school of thought frowns upon the notion of individualism and instead focuses on the needs of the group (collectivism). An article published in the Journal of International Affairs explains,
Confucianism is said to look not at the individual but at the person, the human being enmeshed in a set of relations with other human beings. Society is not a contract among previously unconnected individuals. Rather, society, especially the family, is the state of nature, and we manifest our own nature through our relations with others. Almost all of these relationships are hierarchical, whether inherently so, such as that of parent and child, or by necessary convention.(39) Proper behavior (in Confucian terms li, or ritual) is action in a manner consistent with the relationship we have with others. We should be magnanimous toward those lower in status and respectful of those in a superior position and so forth.(40) This does not imply a servile conformity to the dominant forces in society or an abdication of moral judgment, since in bad times the social order itself becomes corrupt and proper personal behavior is a means for countering the corruption of society. It does mean acting in accord with the intrinsic dignity of the relationships in which we find ourselves.(Moody)
The hierarchal structure of Asian society has contributed greatly to the success of various Asian nations.
Asian workers are committed to working together to complete a task and please their superiors. This type of attitude and social structure is effective in increasing productivity which results in various economic benefits.
Another article insists that the success of Asian culture is based on the strong familial bonds that spill over into the workforce. The article explains,
Families are strong because the values of paternalism on the one hand and filial piety on the other are still vigorously upheld. The same values apply to other institutions, too. The corporate version of filial piety requires employees to give unstintingly of their time and effort; paternalism requires the company to nurture its employees through thick and thin." (Popham)
The Western world has also been able to create extremely successful economies but with values that are almost the complete opposite of Asian culture. Western culture tends to value freedom and individualism more than Asian culture.
Western workers are rather self involved and tend to be motivated by individual achievement instead of the achievements of the group. The Harvard International Review explains,
Individualism is the notion that society can and should be understood as a collection of autonomous individuals, that groups -- with the exception of the nation-state -- have no normative significance as groups; that all behavior, policy, and even ethical judgment should be reduced to their effects on individuals. All individuals play the game of life on equal terms, even if they start with different amounts of physical strength, intellectual capacity, or capital assets. The playing field is level even if the players are not equal. (Marglin)
Western culture also tends to promote new inventions and discoveries, which create new businesses and adds jobs to the economy. Western Culture also includes the concept of a free market society. In a free market "supply and demand are not regulated or are regulated with only minor restrictions." (American Heritage Dictionary) This type of market promotes competition among businesses and produces a market in which citizens have access to high quality products at relatively low prices. The Harvard International Review explains that, the idea of markets as a system for organizing production and exchange, is a distinctly modern invention, which grew in tandem with the cultural assumption of the self-interested, algorithmic individual who pursues wants without limit, an individual who owes allegiance only to the nation-state." (Marglin)
Westerners tend to perform differently in the workforce than Asian workers. Westerners tend to be motivated by promotions and monetary incentives while Asian workers tend to want what is best for the entire company and their coworkers. In addition, jobs in the western workforce have higher turnover rates than those in the Asian workforce because Asian workers tend to stay with one company for a lifetime.
The Learning Project
As you can see Western and Asian cultures are different in many ways but there are also many similarities. For instance, both cultures think very highly of education and hard work. The learning project will seek to use these similarities to bridge the gap between the two cultures and bring about a greater understanding of both cultures. The learning project will be implemented in two fronts; colleges in Asia and the West and in corporations in both cultures.
There are some very obvious reasons why these two fronts were chosen to carry out this project. The concept of implementing the project into the colleges is essential because these colleges will house the future workforce and the leaders of corporations. As the world becomes increasingly more global, our workforce will have to be more sensitive to the needs and customs of employees. It is important to show them the importance of understanding other cultures and the differences that may appear in the workforce. Understanding these differences will aid them in creating successful businesses and being good leaders.
The project will need to be implemented into the existing corporate landscapes of both cultures to increase awareness and to promote tolerance. In addition, employees need to be able to communicate with one another so they can complete any tasks that they need to accomplish. A learning project would aid greatly in the achievement of this goal.
As we stated earlier the learning project will seek to use the similarities between the two cultures. Since both cultures value education, the project will utilize an educational structure to implement the learning project. This means that there will be instructors that will teach various workshops, which will include;
Tolerance of religions and customs
Understanding differences in work ethic
Working as a team
Understanding different Leadership styles
Each workshop will be limited to 20 people per class and will be composed of five groups of four. Each group will be given assignments to complete and will have to work together to get the most out of the workshops. The student teacher ratio of the workshops will be kept at a minimum to ensure the integrity of what is being taught.
The instructors will be individuals that have worked in both cultures for a minimum of three years. These individuals must have a concrete understanding of how to bridge the differences between these cultures. In addition, they must be willing to share there knowledge about adapting to cultural differences.
Each class will be taught twice a week for six weeks. There will be a required workbook and students will be responsible for the learning the material that is presented to them. Additionally, there will be guides available over the internet to aid any student that is having difficulty understanding the concepts that are presented in class.
At the college level, these workshops will be incorporated into the curriculum and will be a mandatory requirement for graduation. The classes will be implemented on a pass or fail basis and students that fail the class will have to repeat it in order to receive a degree. College students will take one class during each year that they are in class.
The second phase of the learning project will be the actual utilization of cultural tolerance in real life situations. This means that college students will use what they have learned when they enter the workforce. In addition, the corporate workers will use this information to increase the productivity of their firms.
Western students will make sure that they exhibit an understanding of Asian culture and vice versa. These students will also exhibit this knowledge when they begin to climb the corporate ladder. The learning project will aid them in making concrete decisions as they acquire leadership roles with various firms.
The project will also allow for cultural exchanges, which will allow Asian students to work in the West and Western students to work in Asia;…