I manage a program office that runs several distinct programs with the same Asian partner company. Each program is managed by different individuals, and the program teams have different members.

One key lesson we've learned in this business alliance is that because of cultural differences, our Asian business partner struggles with brainstorming. My teams have had extensive cultural training through MeridianEaton Global, and the training confirmed our experience that the East Asian ethnic culture does not regard unprepared thoughts or ideas as a positive thing in any situation. This leads me to my question about using the Hotwash technique:

Given the cultural difference within my program teams, do you have any suggestions for how I can get my Asian business partners to participate in the Hotwash technique?

Mark's picture


Sure do. I've dealt with this at tech companies, with both cultural roots and behavioral style roots.

I have two suggestions that I've used and worked well.

First, have the brainstorming session, but also pitch it as a "catalyst session". That is, be clear upfront that not everyone wants to throw out raw ideas (they would call them "half baked", and "dangerous" ;-) ). So, have the session, and ask those that choose to to see it as a STARTING POINT for some of their ideas. Ask them to come back to you with their ideas, more fully developed, within 72 hours of the meeting. (Don't schedule it on Thursday or Friday) If others want to do that, that's great. The fact is, everyone's brains will be better off and be better at ideating AFTER the session, having heard other points of view.

Second, ask everyone to do some work beforehand. Send out a form asking 4-5 questions that you hope to answer, so that folks can schedule some time to come up with some ideas. YOU MUST collect the work beforehand, and tell they you are going to do so, or several/many just won't do it.

Then, during the brainstorming session, conduct it as normal, but ADD to the visual record-keeping the comments that are written down. When you get a lull, you just look down, and say, "someone submitted 'blah blah blah.'" Don't attribute it to anyone, just add it as if someone had just said it out loud.

There are more variations on brainstorming, but these are the most relevant to your question. Hope they help.


PJ's picture

Thanks, Mark. Great suggestion. I have two sessions coming up in July. I'll follow up in a couple of months with my observations.

By the way, I am truly amazed at your dedication to supporting your listeners. It is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Mark's picture


I look forward to hearing how things go.

Thanks for the kind words. They mean a great deal.

Mike and I have been talking a lot about the firm lately, due to the anniversary. We've begun to appreciate that while it's easy to see us as a content company, we'll also always be a service company.

We were once managers with questions (and still are, somedays). We're glad to help.