Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Cultural Specific Problem Solving Styles: The Strength and the Problem Areas of German-Indonesian Groups

Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Cultural Specific Problem Solving Styles: The Strength and the Problem Areas of German-Indonesian Groups

Article excerpt


The main goal of this study is to investigate cultural specific styles of communication and problem solving in German-Indonesian teams as potential elements for mutually enhancing cooperation. Members from eight German-Indonesian work groups in the field of development cooperation participated in this study. Data were gathered in Indonesia by interviews with twelve German and eight Indonesian experts, who had been working together in different multicultural project groups and coordinating offices. Using a qualitative analytical method based on the grounded theory paradigm, data from the interviews were analysed with regard to specific German and Indonesian cultural standards as reflected in interactions in the bicultural work groups. These culturally specific styles are contrasted in detail, and potential areas of conflict and enhancement are discussed. The results show that German-Indonesian work groups can develop specific styles, combining their cultural differences in order to be able to work together effectively.

Key words: Indonesia, development cooperation, bicultural cooperation, problem solving, cultural standard, team work

1. Interviews with German and Indonesian experts

1.1 Research objectives

The central focus of this study deals with problem solving in German-Indonesian work groups. Its main objectives are the identification of cultural standards (Thomas, 1996) of German and of Indonesian work groups, the observation of intercultural processes of communication and problem solving in German-Indonesian work groups, and the description of personal experiences of Germans and Indonesians in that cultural encounter situation (Dadder, 1987; Winter, 1994).

Interviews with 54 German and Indonesian technical experts and managers were conducted in Jakarta, Bogor, Cilegon and Surabaya in Indonesia between November 1997 and February 1998. This field research addressed the intercultural experiences of German and Indonesian technical experts and managers in their professional cooperation in various fields.

The interviews were guided by the following questions.

(1) Description of group tasks and structure

What kind of complex problems are usually being solved in German-Indonesian groups?

Under which organisational conditions do Germans and Indonesians work together?

(2) Complex problem solving in an intercultural context

How do Germans and Indonesians differ in solving complex problems?

Which special features of problem solving can be observed in German-Indonesian groups?

(3) Advantages of intercultural groups in solving complex problems Which positive examples of comples problem solving in German-Indonesian groups can be reported?

(4) Intevention strategies and methods for improving intercultural cooper;ation What could be done to optimize German-Indonesian team cooperation?

The development of this interview guideline was based on literature research as well ad on the results of a previous study about bicultural cooperation, whichf employed a computer based simulation as a group task (Tjitra, 1998).

1.2 Method of interviews and experience report

1.2.1 Interview sample

Interview partners were recruited in multinational companies from various fields of production, such as electrical engineering and chemistry, as well as in development cooperation institutions. The target group were Indonesians and Germans with intensive intercultural experience from direct cooperation in German-Indonesian work groups. German participants had lived at least half a year in Indonesia, while the Indonesian interview partners came from various professional fields (forestry, farming, geography, education, computer science, engineering, chemistry, law, pharmacy, business, and German language studies), who had a minimum of half a year working experience in German international companies or institutions. …

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