Master the Matrix Global Tour Stop #4: Singapore

I fell in love with Singapore—first the city itself and then the people.  As an Aquarian, I loved being surrounded by water.  As a Chicagoan, I loved the mix of old and new architecture, including this:

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It’s a casino and probably not a favorite of the locals, but I loved it—a ship-shaped patio on top of two skyscrapers!  What’s not to love?

My audience in Singapore was a group of 35 outgoing, energetic people from all over the world (I love the melting pot that is Singapore).  We met in an upscale break room.  People lounging on couches, window sills, and at the coffee bar.  And we chatted about all things “matrix.”

It was a Friday afternoon, but that didn’t stop people from asking questions and sharing observations.  We ran way over and probably would still be chatting if not for the fact that I was meeting a friend for dinner and desperately needed a bathroom break!

One of the themes in our conversations (especially the more private ones after the session) was conflict—the conflict that is inherent in the matrix, the need to get good at working through it and the vast cultural differences.

“In Asian cultures, if there is a conflict, we don’t talk about it—ever.”  One of the participants told me.  “Does that mean you let it go?”  I asked.  “Of course not!” she responded.

We stood in that break room a long time talking about how we would change this centuries-old culture of conflict avoidance and how we might bridge the western version of direct conflict resolution and the eastern indirect version.

If conflict is inherent in matrix organizations and the vast majority of matrix organizations are global, can we ever truly master the matrix without figuring this conflict thing out?  Is there a cultural-neutral way to manage conflict?  I think there has to be and it probably requires some middle ground.  I am biased (and acutely aware of possessing a hammer and seeing everything as a nail) but I think the Master the Matrix Building Blocks might offer a start:

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Mindset:  We need to get comfortable with the fact that conflict is viewed very differently across cultures and that in multi-cultural organizations, we will need to give a little bit on our preferences to find the best way to tackle the inevitable conflicts that come up.

Triage:  We need to get good at knowing what conflicts to let go (or let play out) and which to tackle.  Westerners don’t need to tackle everything head on, and those with more Eastern preferences avoid every conflict.

Jujitsu:  When we tackle it, we must do so with a lot of finesse and cultural sensitivity.  For some, that means going in much, much softer than is natural; for others it means recognizing the discomfort and working through it.

Zoom Out:  In order to tackle conflict in a culturally and matrix-related way, we have to see beyond our own perspective.  It will enhance our effectiveness in working through it and will help a solution present itself.