"Corporate culture brings assumptions. For example, a company can be focused on sales or research or technology. Working as a research scientist at Nokia, Rachel Hinman had to take the company culture into account as she planned her research, and address its underlying assumptions." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 5)
Each company has its own culture, which surely has an effect on how business is being conducted day-to-day and what expectations there are for new employees. Companies often select candidates based on whether they would fit in well within their corporate culture, so this makes sense. Some are looking for sharp-minded engineer thinkers, some are looking for risk-taking go-getters to satisfy the company's exploratory ambitions, but some want to to stay small, so they are looking for somebody humble. It's important to study a company's corporate culture before starting a project, especially if you are coming from a different company or foreign culture.
"Sometimes the market decides your strategy for you." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 5)
That's the whole idea of Agile Development - you adjust to the fluctuations of the market and user needs. If users find a different use for your product or their needs change, so should your product - it's important to be flexible to succeed.
"One thing that seems to help is cross-functional teams, with people from the technology, business, and design sides all working closely together. Often, these teams are also cross-cultural, bringing together people from different locations to work on a product. Despite the challenge of managing a global team, the added diversity in both the culture and skills disciplines is an advantage." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 5)
That's true that diversity in skills often means diversity in backgrounds/viewpoints. The richness of opinions challenges and at the same time moves a project in a direction that's non-conventional.
"Working at a distance means you have to be more aware of including everyone. When UX is separate from the main product team it can be especially difficult, because not being colocated can mean getting left out of conversations." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 6)
I believe working together physically in one location is ideal, but today there are so many online tools that can make global collaboration possible that there's no excuse for people not to do it.
"Being able to meet the people you are working with just changes the tone of the whole relationship because you understand who you are working with. This travel can pay off in future working relationships." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 6)
"Cross-cultural communication demands an extra level of awareness. There are all the little adaptations to develop a communication style, all the small details of business etiquette and differences across cultures." (W. Quesenbery, "Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 6)
Communication styles and etiquette do differ culture to culture, so even from a business perspective, if you want to establish trust and build a strong relationship, it's important to do "the homework" in advance and learn about the culture first. That will just make it easier for everybody on the team to connect and trust each other.
"Roughly two-thirds of consumers feel businesses are as responsible as government for driving positive change, and they believe companies can both increase profits and improve conditions in the communities where they operate...When faculty and students assign worthiness to work solely on the basis of obvious message content or self-declared client or designer intent, they not only overlook the daunting systems-level complexity underlying social and environmental problems, but also ignore the potential in every design project to “do good.” " (M. Davis, "Core Values Matter")
I wonder if this customer expectation from brands is a new trend. Comparing the American and Russian market trends, it seems that it's only arising in Russia, which could be the effect of globalization or the innate human desire to drive progress.
"Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 5: Global Companies and Global Strategy
Organizations have cultures too, and it's hard to identify them from within, but they do affect decision-making/strategy. Creating global products starts with creating product concepts and their market strategies.
4 Global Product Strategies
- The global market changes fast, so your product should be planned with global markets in mind. You have to build the flexibility into the product from the very beginning
- In global teams, the headquarter typically has more control than regional offices, no matter if the product is being designed for local markets or not. But control also depend on the individual employee's role within the regional office - the higher up he/she is, the more say he/she gets.
- Having a diverse, cross-functional team is always an advantage.
- Pros: gives equal rights and opportunities to all UX specialists across the globe, brings creative ideas to a corporate culture via bringing diversity
- Cons: distance may lead to the disconnect between an outsourced specialist and the client/user
Advice for Outsourcing in UX
- Travel and blending of staff
Managing Global UX Teams
- Bridge organizational, cultural, and technical boundaries; make team more collaborative
- Make sure UX includes strong global perspectives; respond to help requests from foreign locations
- Manage corporate politics; participate in work outside UX
"Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World", Chapter 6: Effective Global Teams
- Many companies have one central UX team (located either at the HQ or biggest market) who works with regional partners and outside companies on research and design
- Some are organized into offices (placed strategically in largest markets) by function (e.g., developers in China and India; UX in USA and Asia).
- If meeting in person is impossible, phone calls or video chats are more effective than email
- Time zones and accents may vary and create additional challenges.
- Getting physically together is important at key points of any project (kickoff, milestones, etc.)
- Diversity is the top advantage of global teams
- Global teams require extra cultural awareness (etiquette, communication style)
- Building all-inclusive relationships, where everybody is heard, is important
- Some individuals can act as a cultural bridge between different cultural groups, smoothing out communication
- Building UX and cross-cultural knowledge is also important: keeping everybody updated about UX techniques and general knowledge about users, markets, and cultures via local and global communities.
Meredith Davis, "Core Values Matter"
- People connect emotionally with companies' stories that are representative of these companies' internal ethos, and show loyalty when these values stay ethical and humanistic overtime. Progressive companies constantly reorganize to make sure these corporate values reflect that.
- Social media drive communication and feedback between users and companies, in the form of likes, diskiles, and advocacy.
- Quality, reliability, transparency, honesty, authenticity - most important values for companies to have, as expressed by users
- Users are becoming more aware and concerned with environmental and social impact of the products they use - most believe that businesses are responsible for driving positive change
- Designers thus have to make sure to design for "better good" via social innovation design, that goes beyond the look/feel and product messaging
- Social innovation can be top-down (recognize a social problem and find the solution) or bottom-up (discover the power of cooperation and redesign existing products, services, skills, and knowledge)
- Transition design is a design-led societal transition towards more sustainable features
- Value-driven businesses produce more productive and loyal employees, more loyal customers, and are thus more prepared to sustain any crisis internally and externally, because of strong bonding
- Designing for social change and equity starts with inclusivity (diversity) within the very field of design
- Examples of value-driven companies: Everlane, Patagonia
The danger of a single story
My single story:
Being completely unfamiliar with the Asian culture at the time when I came to America for the first time and saw so many Asians, I assumed that first of all, all people of Asian descent were foreigners, and that those who studied at the university were children of rich Chinese factory owners and businessmen. That was partially influenced by the stories I heard from my college friends and observations I made about these Chinese students shopping in luxury brand stores and driving luxury cars. That's the impression I got about all Chinese living in America. But as I got immersed more and more into the daily life outside the university, talked to some of these students, and observed Chinese people working middle-class jobs, my single-story understanding of the Chinese people has expanded. Just like in any other culture, there is a socio-economic divide, and even though those students studying in universities may represent the richer (foreign) groups of Chinese, it certainly is not applicable to the entire population living in China or the Chinese population living in America.
To expand your viewpoint, it's important to consider multiple "sources", which may manifest in:
- Immersing yourself into the local culture
- Taking a class on cultures or a foreign language course
- Reading books/literature
- Meeting new people, being humble
- Changing your environments, expanding your interests