Since the prehistory, there has always been a difference between men and women. The men were going for a hunt, while the women were caring for the kids and preparing a meal. But in the last decades, there has been a huge change in the working mentality…
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “drone”? I am sure, for many of you, it still has a negative connotation. You might think of warfare, espionage and surveillance. Indeed, drones were invented and first used for military and…
What do you think about group assignments? If you are a university student, chances are high that group assignments will accompany you throughout your academic career. The objectives are well known: e.g. developing stronger communication and time management skills, learning how to collaborate and share diverse perspectives while solving arising conflicts together as you go. However, we are not explicitly taught on how to do that. The approach is rather practical: learning by doing. In the following paragraphs I want to give you an overview about some challenges for teamwork in an international business context. Maybe it can provide you with some useful pointers as to how to navigate the group assignments you have during your studies. The goal is for you to become aware of certain dysfunctions that can arise while working in a team, so you can consciously take action to mitigate or avoid them, making you a better team player.
Multinational companies have access to a pool of experts from their global network. When there is a need to form a global team, to help the company to compete in a promising market, they can bring together team members with different cultural and functional backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
However, they need to be aware of several factors that can make teamwork less efficient.
Figure 1: The vicious dynamic (Neeley, 2015)
A different cultural background can mean different attitudes towards hierarchy and authority, different preferences for communication (direct vs. indirect), and conflicting norms in decision making (Brett et al., 2006). Additionally, when team members are geographically dispersed, it is more difficult to build connections and alignment, since there is less face-to-face interaction. Both can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding, and subsequently negatively affect cooperation and trust within the team. Neeley (2015) calls this the vicious dynamic (see Figure 1). In his research he proposes a framework (see Figure 2) that helps to avert this dynamic by looking at the concept of social distance, which measures the degree of emotional connection between team members.
Figure 2: The social distance framework (Neeley, 2015)
Social distance can arise from structural factors such as location, the number of sites where team members are based and the number of employees who work at each site. If the team leader is located in the same place where the majority of the team members are or close to the company headquarters, the needs and contributions of the minority team members at other locations are often overlooked or deemed as less important, causing a perceived power imbalance. It is the responsibility of the leader to alleviate this power imbalance by actively involving every team member, encourage sensitivity, and build unity.
A definitive characteristic of global teams is that the team members have different levels of fluency in the chosen language of communication. Members who are more fluent dominate the discussions and exert more influence while the others, who are just as competent, find it difficult to contribute. This can lead to a whole lot of inefficiencies starting with demotivation, interpersonal conflicts, and not utilizing the full potential of the team. Neeley (2015) proposes 3 rules of engagement to counter this problem (see Figure 3). Fluent speakers need to dial down their dominance, while less fluent speakers should dial up their engagement. The role of the team leader is to balance the inclusion.
Figure 3: Rules of engagement (Neeley, 2015)
Communication technology can have a positive or negative effect on social distance. Which effect is rather desired depends on the purpose of the communication. Face-to-face meetings and video conferences enable the perception of body language and facial expressions, decreasing social distance. They are best to be used when the other party needs to be persuaded. Delayed communication, like E-Mails, are efficient when information needs to be shared. The lack of contextual cues in this context increases social distance.
Identity (age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion etc.) can determine the meaning of certain behaviors. It is crucial for all the team members to keep an open mind, learn from each other, and avoid assumptions on the meaning of behaviors. The way people give feedback may be different. Some people might be encouraged by direct criticism others may find it offensive and prefer an indirect way of feedback.
The author puts a lot of emphasis on the responsibility of the team leader to recognize and reconcile the different forces that can lead to dysfunctional teams. They have an integrative and exemplary role.
The teams you are working in during class usually have a flat hierarchy, without an assigned team leader. It is therefore helpful when all the team members are able to recognize budding problems to make their collaboration more efficient. Can you recognize yourself in the framework? Do you feel like your opinion is not taken seriously? Do you feel demotivated, because you cannot show your full potential in a group setting? Maybe you can use this framework to start a conversation. Furthermore, I would urge you to deliberately seek out diverse team members for your future group assignments, for the added challenge as well as for the added learning effect. What do you think?
Harvard Business Review
Global teams that work (Neeley, 2015) https://hbr.org/2015/10/global-teams-that-work
Managing multicultural Teams (Brett, Behfar and Kern, 2006) https://hbr.org/2006/11/managing-multicultural-teams
If you are reading this, then congratulations! As mentioned in the first blog post Start-Ups are all about not giving up on your idea! Showing courage, wanting to keep going, that’s where the amateurs drop out. If you haven’t read the first post, read it…
Psychology within the business area is becoming more and more important nowadays. A lot of research is done and some companies are already trying to implement the results into practice. Especially managers can use a lot of the results of psychological studies in their daily jobs to influence people in what they are doing. Below three important issues will be discussed.
In every organization the workforce consists of a diverse set of people, including visible and non-visible differences such as ethnicity, gender and characteristics. There are quite some advantages of a diverse workforce, but the most important one is that diverse groups outperform homogenous groups because they have a greater variety of knowledge. Therefore, a manager needs to make sure to have different kinds of employees and use everybody’s talents in an effective manner because this will lead to the best result. However, a diverse group does not always give good results because different people might not understand each other or have conflicting ideas about subjects. Probably, you yourself have experience with this when working in teams for assignments for example. A manager should understand the many kinds of differences between people, not only the most obvious ones such as gender, but also how these differences are perceived by the employees themselves. Research shows that positive outcomes are more likely when employees look at differences as a source of variety rather than as a basis for separation. The challenge for managers is to create this awareness among the employees, which for example can be done by providing training courses.
Rewards are often used as an extra motivation for employees. You also work harder when you get a reward for it, right? Rewards are always linked to past behavior and supposed to influence future behavior. A lot of research is done on this topic and two main results were found. Firstly, it was found that behavior that was based on a partial reinforcement schedule, meaning only giving a reward some of the times after good behavior, is much more persistent and likely to continue even when the reward is removed. The research showed that the lower the percentages of correct responses were rewarded, the more persistent the behavior was. Secondly, the most important result that was found was that the most lasting behavior change was found when persons believe that they want to change for their own reasons instead of being rewarded for doing so. This is because when the only justification people give for their behavior are external rewards and consequences, they will not likely develop an internal rationale for these actions.
Goals are set as an observable and measurable end result of the achievements of objectives. Setting goals sounds easy, but there is a whole theory behind setting goals in a way that people are willing and able to successfully achieve them. Basically it is found that goals that are difficult but not impossible and that are expressed clearly will lead to higher levels of performance than other kinds of goals. The characteristics of a good goal are the following: specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-based, shortly SMART. Another important aspect of goal achievement is goal commitment: when the goal matters to the employee the performance is likely to be much higher. The best way to ensure goal commitment is information exchange. When there is a dialogue between the person assigning the goal (the manager) and the person who is expected to achieve it (the employee) then the employee knows the reasons why the specific goal is set, the goal commitment will be higher. Also, feedback is an important aspect of goal performance because in this way the employee is able to refine his strategy along the way and this also makes the employee more committed. All the factors mentioned before lead to an improvement of the work performance.
When managers implement the above mentioned aspects as well as other psychological studies concerning business life a lot of improvement can be gained in terms of performance.
Will everyone have Internet access some day? In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented what is known as the World Wide Web. The reason behind it was to make the transfer of documents easier between physics laboratories from his employer CERN, but it turned out to be…
Holidays, who doesn’t like them? Preferably you would like to get at your destination as fast and as cheap as possible. For that specific desire budget airlines are the solution. Currently the demand for these Low Cost Carriers (LCC) is extremely high. So high, that…
An Axe bar, Rexona sport centre, free Ben and Jerry’s, Lipton coffee bar, a restaurant with solely Knorr meals and an indoor hairstylist. When entering the Unilever office in Rotterdam one cannot be anything other than impressed. Even the elevators feel like home due to their laundry room look. The whole Weena office is filled with Unilever’s own products. Now that’s what we call keeping an eye on your product!
We’ve talked to Paula Ruesen, Tilburg University graduate and currently working as a Financial Management Trainee at Unilever. She started over half a year ago at the regional office in Rotterdam. “I like the international atmosphere here and the fact that I can actually see the end results of the products that we work on in the supermarkets. I used to hate doing groceries, but now I love seeing our products on the shelves.”
During her master Finance she visited an Inhouseday at Unilever and the people really appealed to her. That is when she realised Unilever was the place for her. “A traineeship at Unilever is unique because the company is so vibrant. I do something different every day: I help marketeers see the financial effects of their new innovations, I work on reporting and I help create management information. Currently I am working on Unilever’s margarine brands. I think most girls want to work for the personal care department so they can make use of all the nice samples, but I can tell it does not really matter for which brand you work because you will get enthusiastic about it anyway!”
A traineeship at Unilever lasts two to three years in which you work in different roles. This way you get a broad view of your opportunities within the company. Next to the Finance traineeship, Unilever also has traineeships in Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain, HR and R&D. Traineeships at Unilever have two entry moments, March and September. During the application rounds the recruiters look at the competencies of the applicants rather than a maximum/ minimum amount of trainees they need to hire. The selection procedure for the traineeship consists of three rounds that aim to test the personality of the candidate. First, you need to apply online, where you are asked to upload your CV and motivation letter. Also, you will need to do an online intelligence test. When you are accepted for round two, you will be interviewed by a recruiter. In the final round you are invited for an assessment day at the Unilever office. You can find more information about traineeships on their website.
Unilever has a high international culture, no wonder seeing the fact that they sell their products all over the world. Paula almost always communicates in English with her colleagues, and she regularly has contact with colleagues working abroad. Unilever would be a suitable environment for international students looking for employment; they already have international employees at their Weena offices. International students can do an internship or apply for a starting position following the website. However, for Unilever’s traineeship you need to speak Dutch. That is definitely something to keep in mind for all you international students out there.
Paula has one last word of advice for all students aspiring to work at Unilever. “Enjoy your student life! Broaden yourself, become active at a study or student association. You will not be rejected by Unilever because you have a year of study delay on your CV. There is so much to see and to do during your student life, things you might never be able to do again once you start working.”
Interested in working for Unilever? The application round for traineeships, starting in September, is open the entire month of April and the first week of May (Deadline: May 7). If you want to start next year March, you can apply coming October. You can find more information by using this link: http://www.unilever.com/careers-jobs/graduates/
Quants, engineers and puzzle masters, they all play their part in Michael Lewis’ new book ‘Flash Boys’. ‘Flash Boys’ is a book about High Frequency Trading (HFT) and I enjoyed the light way it handles this topic, so I decided to write a short review.
You might have never heard of HFT, so let me explain it in one sentence. As the book describes, HFT firms make money by scouring the market for buyers and sellers of stock and race ahead of them to transact on the various exchanges in order to burden the original buyer/seller with a disadvantageous price, scalping cold cash in the process. Well, this may still not clear it up for you but it sure shouldn’t sound like ordinary business.
The picture that Lewis paints is one of a corrupted capital market where secrecy has long cloaked the grey area practices of financial intermediaries with HFT. It’s about a market where the common investor gets hit in the blink of a second and an ongoing arms race for speed is approaching the limit, the speed of light. It’s about a market where retirement savings are sucked into the ‘dark pools’ of your trusted Wall Street banks and channelled to the HFT guys. A ‘dark hole’ might better fit the description.
Luckily, the antidote is already on its way in the form of a “fair stock exchange” created by Brad Katsuyama and his band of tech-savvy ronin. Their crusade for transparency is beautifully captured by Lewis in a little north of 250 pages. The last part of the book describes the construction and workings of the Investors Exchange (IEX), the result of Katsuyama’s hard work. The IEX’s purpose is to make sure that all investors have an equal chance for a fair price by intentionally implement delays in its system. As a result, HFT firms won’t be able to detect buyers and sellers before anyone else and so they can’t outrun them anymore. Consequently, market orders are executed at the ‘fair’ mid-point price far more often.
Michael Lewis doesn’t offer an objective view on the HFT phenomenon but rather takes the side of Katsuyama and his endeavour. After reading ‘Flash Boys’, it’s hard not to share his sympathy, because Katsuyama’s story is a story about a man who had the feeling that the market was “rigged”. Once he found out that he and the investing public got screwed with HFT, all he wanted is to develop the right medicine. He assembled a crew of like-minded people and declared war on the status quot. The development of their weapon ‘THOR’, a piece of defence software, and the day Goldman Sachs entrusted the IEX with the first big market orders are some of the climactic events resulting from Katsuyama’s brave fight.
I recommend ‘Flash Boys’ to everyone with a fair interest in Wall Street or investing in general. ‘Flash Boys’ might lack objectivity, but it sure is revealing and has all the great storytelling that we expect from Lewis. Micheal Lewis is known for his accessible financial journalistic work. People interested in the subprime mortgage crisis and the resulting credit crisis might enjoy ‘The Big Short’. But it’s not only Wall Street he writes about, for a combination of sports and the scientific method read ‘Moneyball’ or just watch the movie. 😉
Interested? Check out these links:
What started as a Silicon Valley trend has now concurred much of the developed world. Technology startup companies are popping out of the ground like mushrooms. What is different about a ‘new’ technology startup from normal entrepreneurial ventures is that these companies can grow big in…
It is possible; order online and only wait 30 minutes until you receive your package. Imagine how easy that would be, no need to go out to the supermarket anymore if you forgot to get the cheese or only having to wait for a short while on the book you ordered instead of a couple of days.
From now on this is no longer an illusion according to the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. With the use of so called ‘octocopters’, Amazon will send little packages in a radius of 16 kilometers from the warehouse to its customers. Currently 86 per cent of Amazons products under the weight of 2,5 kg could be send by those electric drones.
Bezos expects that Amazon will deliver by air in four or five years. However, in China unmanned planes carrying packages have already been spotted and in Australia the company Zookal is planning to fly schoolbooks as of March 2014. Yet, they have to wait for approval of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority. But there is hope for them, Australia has a progressive legislation towards drones and was the first country to make legislation for unmanned planes in 2002. Even in the USA itself it is already happening, some fast food companies have already tested food being delivered over air to its customers, such as Domino’s who transported two pizzas, andBurrito Bomber who successfully delivered taco’s.
But there is more to it, since Bezos’ announcement in the beginning of December about his so-called Prime Air plan, some uproar came up. Some of it is about practical matters: how would the drones avoid flying into trees or phone lines? Can they also fly when it is raining? How to avoid people in the USA shooting down the drones? How can they find a suitable place to land? What if drones get ‘hacked’ and taken over by someone else? Do they form any harm for airplanes? Amazon did not have answers for these questions, nor did other companies.
Yet, the main fear about the introduction of the drone as a delivery method is the fact that multiple objects will be flying around all day. This has several implications, first of all, if those drones need cameras to perform a landing this means that they can, maybe accidentally, film in your garden where you might be sunbathing or through the window of your bedroom or even bathroom. What happens to those records and who has access to them? Luckily, it is unlikely that the authorities will permit any recording or taping by those drones. But even then, imagine sitting outside in the garden enjoying the sun, and every now and then a drone blocks your sunlight. And when you look around you constantly see huge bees flying around. At least for now that is something people rather do not see.
What about the Netherlands you might wonder? There are no examples of commercial drone usage yet. Nevertheless, since July 2013 there is legislation concerning drones. At this moment official permission is needed to be allowed to fly with drones. Furthermore, the possibility to fly in densely populated areas is restricted. However, this does not mean that drones are not used. At this moment the Dutch police does make use of drones for traffic checks.
For the near future, we will not face a world full of flying objects. But for now we should start thinking where we want to go, what we accept and what not. Do we allow our air being polluted with flying machines for more convenience?