Coming into the MIM, we all knew that we’d be working with people from different cultural backgrounds, and the program has built into it a wide variety of classes and activities. However, now that we’ve started our specialization, we’re no longer sequestered away in our MIM-only classes – specialization courses are cross-listed and available to MBA students as well. In theory, both the MIM and MBA students should have received the same preparation from the courses leading up to the specialization courses, so when group projects roll around, and disciplines get mixed, there shouldn’t be any problem, right? Well, yes, and no. There really isn’t any problem, in essence with mixing disciplines – the MIM background and MBA background are poised to bring different perspectives to the table, and that diversity is definitely a good thing. However, because the two programs are different, and the classes that each discipline must take as a part of their program are different, sometimes expectations of ability and key assumptions may act as a speed bump for team members.
Most noticeably, the MIM focuses on more interpersonal, and intercultural skills – preparing graduates to function either in Asia, or function successfully with those in Asia. That much is pretty common knowledge for MIMers. What is maybe a little less known is that those “softer” skills are more punctuated throughout the program than the “harder,” numbers based skills, that the MBA students pick up, in spades. The result: slight miscommunications and mixed expectations in group meetings that find MIMers and MBAers together. Case studies are written differently, the depth of financial analysis varies, and there are differences in the expectations of group dynamics. But do not worry, MIMers! There are just a few things to remember, that I’ve found have helped me, so far:
1) Remember, you’re all working towards the same goal: an A. The methods employed by team members may be a little different, but everyone wants to end up at the same point, so try not to let differences get in the way!
2) Give the professor what they want. There are different ways to do case study analyses, presentations and projects, that are unique in scope to your discipline. However, the most important thing to remember is that each professor has their own expectations and grading scale – focus on that, rather than the way you’re used to doing things (however that might be).
3) You all bring something to the table, so build on those strengths. Just like when working with international students, MIMers should remember that these MBA students also bring something to the table. Odds are, that perspective is one that has been successful for them, and it will likely add to the overall final product.
In all, it may be more work at times, and frustrating at other times, but overall, there is definitely potential for better final products with interdisciplinary cooperation. And, for those current MIMers out there, but to use those skills learned in Intercultural Competency and Communication, and Human Resources… and if all else fails, at least we’ll be able to utilize the skills we’ll take away from our current Negotiations class!