Managing Multicultural teams: an example of productivity and creativity in organisation

The role of the culture in team-working

First of all our goal is to understand the stakes of team-working through the example of multicultural team. Thus before explain the cost and benefits of team-working, and analysis the process of a multicultural team; we should define the goal of a multicultural team.

Indeed many organisations are made up by smalls groups and teams. Nowadays a lot of multicultural teams are set up inside famous firms (Renault Nissan, Google). This phenomenon is the consequence of merger, acquisition, purchases and the change of the organisation structure. As a matter of fact people tend to work more and more by projects groups, all over the world. Boundaries aren't more obstacles to the collaboration between subsidiaries of the same company but who are located in different countries.

According to DiStefano J. J., Maznevski M. L., « Creating value with diverse teams in global management », Organizational Dynamics, 29, p. 45-63, 2000: teams become more specialise and proficient in a accurate field that's why members of different teams should learn to work together in order to share their knowledge, skills , abilities for reaching settled objectives.

This new team could advance in a international or multicultural context. The team working aims to share technical skills in order to develop or launch a new product, idea, and concept. The members of team project will work together given a fixed time to reach to settled objectives.

We want to apprehend the strengths, weakness, and way of functioning of multicultural team.A team is a whole of people with specific and complementary, completing skills and abilities in interaction during a precise time. Members of a team depend on each other in order to reach commons objectives. Everyone takes its own responsibilities and feels concern by the goal achievement.

According to Schermehorn ( “ comportement humain et organisation” Québec,

2000). a team is:

  1. - a natural phenomenon within an organisation
  2. -having a positive and beneficial effect on individuals and on the organisation
  3. -allows a better decision making
  4. -members of a group undertake to apply common decision
  5. -helps to frame members more easily

If we apply this definition to multicultural team, we can consider there different types of team:

  1. Monocultural team
  2. bicultural
  3. multicultural team.

So members of a multicultural team are native from various cultural and social environments.

For example our team for this coursework contains four different nationalities: Italian, Chinese, French and Mauritian. That means, we come from different horizons and don't share the same values or vision of team-working.

Generally, members of a multicultural team haven't got the same conception of working, that can provokes conflict and troubles and also influence the effectiveness of the team-working. (Barmeyer C., Management interculturel et styles d'apprentissage, PUL,Québec, 2007). But we should keep in mind that team-working have pros and cons for individual and for the group

Pros and cons / cost and benefits

In bicultural or multicultural team the problem could be the willingness of the dominant culture to impose its point of view and idea to the other .A dominant culture in a team means that several members in the team share the same nationality, system of values. This confrontation of idea can have a stimulant effect or on the contrary can demotivate others members who don't dare to express their mind in front of the dominant culture.

Contrary to a bicultural team where problem of power and competition can emerge; the members of multicultural team propose manifold ideas and do a kind of brainstorming about the strategy to adopt, how to organise and splitting up the tasks. A multicultural team tend to reach to a consensus and to be more flexible to attune to the situation that is Chevrier (« Le management des équipes interculturelles », Management International, vol. 8, 3, p. 31-40, 2004. p.34 called the “intercultural courtesy”. Furthermore in this kind of team the common language is English and usually one person who belongs to the main culture of the team takes the role of leader and will try to coordinate the work and facilitate exchanges and communication between all members. Indeed, in our team one personality gains the upper hand to enhance the communication by translating some words and rephrase when it was necessary. This initiative has created a link between the members of dominant culture of the team (Italian) and the others.

The challenge of a multicultural team is to achieve to respect the objectives given the time, to communicate, to be coordinated in order to be productive and creative. All this factors build a common teamwork skills, team spirit after. Canney Davison S., Ward K., (Leading International Teams, McGraw-Hill, London, 1999. )

Managing multicultural team is complex because people have various ways of thinking, working, different language, That can lead to a loose of efficiency like the follow scheme show it:

The effectiveness of a team depends of its objectives, resources, process and results from the interactions between its members. Moreover the diversity within a team could be an assets or a drawback as we can see in the next table:

We can consider that multicultural team as a added value in terms of productivity and creativity. Indeed the diversity is a strategic factor to help the organizational cohesion and the synergy between different tasks, activities, skills.

Pros and cons of the diversity within a team



Increase the creativity

Increase possibilities of different point of views

Generates more and better ideas

Helps to a better definition of problem

Allows the best decision making by a consensus

Choice the best solution

The team becomes more effectiveness and productive

Disturb the group cohesion

Mistrust: stereotypes

Difficulties of communication, barrier of foreign languages


Difficulty to reach to an agremment , consensus, the validation of idea by the others members.

Source : Adler, 1994, p. 140, extraits Adler N., Comportement organisationnel. Une approche multiculturelle,Reynald Goulet, Québec, 1994

The benefits of the team-working are to reach to a better comprehension of objectives and to combine resources and skills in order to find the original and various solutions. It conveys the idea of a stimulate working environment because members depend on each other and they share complementary skills and abilities. However all members has its own personality and character, origin, social background ,religious or political point of view, way to learn… and all the factors can lead to conflict of opinions. Moreover people in team have different behaviour and expectations from the other. In fact some people can adapt their behaviour to reduce tension and avoid conflict. But some people don't want to respect the rules game when others will need a structure an a accurate schedule to be efficient. So the team-working helps people to organize their tasks and to avoid waste of time and facilitate the communication. Nevertheless members of the team should accept, apply and respect its task and part of work that means to have confident and to trust the others members and accept to delegate. The trust and the communication are crucial keys success of team-working that's allow the exchange and share of information, an optimal making decision and it's a way to motive people thanks to their involvement in the team: everyone has its part of responsibility in the success or the fail of the work.

Magee D.( Comment Carlos Ghosn a sauvé Nisssan, Dunod, Paris, 2003.) Explains how Carlos Ghosn has saved Nissan, by several mesures

  1. -he has implemented transversal workshop made up by employees (middle and senior executive) from different part of the world in order to break boundaries: functional and cultural border. The aim is to allow senior executive and manager to work together with the same mission of increase growth and make profits.
  2. According to him: Employee are involved and creates the change in all levels of the organisation
  3. -To facilitate the communication between Japanese (Nissan) and French (Renault) teams, he creates a keyword manual in English in order to reference all technical terms and avoid misunderstanding.
  4. - Cross functional teams based on the diversity are set up composed by Japanese and French manager who should work in team with engineers, middle executive and experts of different departement to facilitate the circulation of information between each subsidiaries and cultures
  5. -he beliefs to the synergy and the collaboration between people natives from different social, professional and cultural horizons in order to find the best solution together
  6. -multi cultural team has a strong potential of productivity owing to the combination of resources, ideas, knowledge, all differences can be transcended to build a new culture based on a mix of each cultures that is the intercultural concept.

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