We were discussing “International Innovation” in our Summer Union last year, so, because I am not normally the international one at 100%Open, I tried to take a different and hopefully helpful tack with my presentation: How We, The British, Are Seen by Everyone Else. Now I’m prompted to blog by Neil McGregor’s short series on Radio Four, As Others See Us. I recommend it. Brexit preparation essential listening.
My Union slides were aimed at our mainly British, mainly London based audience. In preparation I spoke to our facilitation team in the US and asked them to tell me what their innate impression was of the British before working with us. Interesting replies – to summarise, JK Rowling and Richard Curtis have a lot to answer for! We are gloomy, up-tight, proper, and live in a gloomy, rainy place where everybody is at least middle class, if not upper class.
Last year, my ex-colleague from Moldova mentioned that she couldn’t “at first” get to grips with the class system here and it’s everyday application in social context. I’m not sure if that means she gave up trying or started to feel at home with it. Hopefully the former.
One of my US colleagues did at least say that getting to know 100%Open staff dispelled a lot of these misconceptions and that we do “have more personality than I gave you credit for“. Er…Thanks!
Just some of the faces you’ll find working in the 100%Open studio
Here’s the bit that I thought the Brits and Londoners I was talking to should really pay attention to. A Malaysian colleague reminded me that their (and by association much of the former British Empire’s) impression of us is really a hangover from the time of ‘British Rule’ there. I’m not so young, but even my memory does not go back to the British Empire.
The shock was that when us modern Brits deal with those parts of the world where that relationship of ruler and ruled existed, which she described as “sometimes positive, sometimes unsavoury” (pause and shudder), the spectre of that relationship is still present.
The British need to make an effort to dispel negative impressions as soon as we can in our international working relationships, or potential relationships. Make haste to show that we are not the starchy, proper, in-charge, know-it-all, gloomy, upper class types that they may be expecting. We may have forgotten all about the British Empire, but we should keep in mind that a lot of other people around the globe have not.
100%Open work all over the globe now as well as at ‘home’ in the UK. In 2018 we worked on five continents, visiting countries as diverse as Indonesia, the USA, Holland, Thailand, Australia and the UAE to name a few. The nature of what we do is collaborative and inclusive, and we aim to make good friends and good partners for our clients wherever they are based, using both our, and their, expertise. We are also a bunch of Brits who’s origins are very international; currently, Indian, Finnish, Bangladeshi, Huguenot (probably), Ghanaian-Lebanese, Scots…and previous iterations of the team featured Italian-Native American, British-German-American, Moldovan, South African-Australian, Bulgarian, Spanish …
So here we are, at the beginning of 2019, and ready for the world!