Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Adapting an American-Based Simulation to a Hong Kong Classroom

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Adapting an American-Based Simulation to a Hong Kong Classroom

Article excerpt

Case studies tend to embed the language and values of the culture in which they are created. To use an American-based behavioural simulation, Looking Glass Inc., in Hong Kong, we needed to adapt it to the students' language environment and proficiency, their culturally derived behaviours, and their understanding of the context of American business. In Hong Kong, the norms prescribing language use are complex and contradictory; English is a major business, government, and legal language, but Cantonese and sometimes Mandarin have a continuing presence, especially in oral communication. The English in the simulation, however, reflecting the authors' emphasis on realism, included slang and idiomatic expressions that were confusing even to students otherwise fluent in the language, and thus we had to modify materials to aid comprehension. We also had to adjust our administration of the materials to account for cultural differences between the individualistic and low power distance dimensions of the American scene represented in the simulation and the collectivistic and high power distance environment our students found more comfortable. Our strategy in adapting the simulation was to stimulate participants in Looking Glass Inc. to act authentically in their roles, negate reactive and promote proactive behaviour at all four organisational levels, and encourage the thoughtful and complete analysis of the simulation, not something that came naturally. Finally, we had to make explicit several elements of American business assumed by the authors but not known to the students, including American geography and transportation systems, laws and administrative bodies, and race and gender issues.

Keywords: Case studies, simulations, intercultural communication, American business systems

SIMULATIONS ARE USED extensively by American business schools and corporations to teach management, business communication, and organisational behaviour (see, for example, Crookall, 1995; Hugenberg, 1992; Hugenberg, Owens, & Robinson, 1988; Jameson, 1993; Jean-Claude, 1987; Kable, 1989; Keys, 1986, 1989; Keys & Wolfe, 1990; Lamourex, 1995; Larreche, 1987; Lloyd, 1978; Smith, 1992; Thatcher, 1990; Thatcher & Robinson, 1985; Wolfe, 1978, 1983, 1985). Their use in higher education outside the US, especially in Asia, has been limited (Chang, 1997; Chang, Ma, & Lee, 1998; Kao, Tsai, & Yao, 1997). This picture is changing, however. Usage has increased substantially over the past ten years with the expectation of accelerated growth in the new millennium (Chang, Ma, & Lee, 1998; Faria, 1989, 1998; Porter & McKibbin, 1988; Wolfe, 1993).

Looking Glass Inc. is a complex large-scale American-based behavioural simulation that provides participants with realistic exposure to interpersonal and organisational communication. Over a two year period we implemented a project (the Action Learning Project funded by the Hong Kong SAR Government) to introduce and adapt Looking Glass Inc. to improve the teaching of an organisational and management communication course at a Hong Kong tertiary institution. Realising that Looking Glass Inc. was meant for use with American students and that Hong Kong students have different needs and backgrounds, we instituted adaptations to better fit this American-based simulation to the educational environment in Hong Kong. The process involved developing supplemental materials and new policies and procedures to facilitate the administration of the simulation while using the intact simulation materials. In this article, we describe the simulation, review the rationale for our adaptations to the Hong Kong classroom, and disc uss our process.

The Simulation and the Setting

Looking Glass Inc. (university edition) is a management and behavioural simulation produced by the Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, N.C. (Lombardo, McCall, & DeVries, 1990; McCall & Lombardo, 1982). …

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