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American In China: McGee On Making It Work In Shanghai
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American In China: McGee On Making It Work In Shanghai

January 22, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

You talked about how personal you are with all your employees, learning their stories and everything. Here's my question: the benefits of that are obvious, but I sat there wondering if you would have the same attitude if you were still an American developer in American development studio. Would you sit down and talk to everyone?

AM: I don't know, but I can tell you that part of what drove that when I got here was finally having the realization that I was out of my place. I was out of my comfort zone. I was really in a strange place. And realizing that what I was investing in was people, the people that are working inside the company.

That was the only thing that was going to work for me in China. And that's what started to drive me to really dig into the who and the what, the how and the why these people joined the company. I don't know. It just happened naturally.

I can say part of it was curiosity and fear that I don't necessarily know if I would have experienced in the States. Because in the States you kind of sense: "Look, I know who you are just by looking at you." But here, as a foreigner, you don't immediately pick up on who someone is by just looking at them.

That's what I was feeling. On one hand you have the cultural curiosity, coming here as an American, to get some insight, right? And also, in America, you're right. When you meet people you very quickly size someone up, I think.

AM: That's right.

Especially other gamers and other game industry people. You talk to them for five minutes and you think you know what they're about.

AM: That's right. I think that's a fallacy as well. We often times make that mistake about people, and that's something that I actually was learning back in the States. I was learning it in large part because a lot of people would make assumptions about me, who I was and what I was about. I tried to turn that around by getting to know people better.

By the I time I came out here, it really became a necessity, because you don't get those immediate cues, and you really have to spend more time to know people.

I find it interesting that you talked about how people expect you to have a whole bunch of slides about how to learn to work in China, and "Here's my breakdown of what you need to know." But your breakdown was more like, "Go live in China, and learn how to live in China, and you'll figure it out."

AM: Exactly. I don't think that the lessons I learned can be taught in a book, because it's a very individual, personal thing. I've seen people come out here that maybe last a month and they freak out. Their brain crashes and they have to flee, and run back home.

This came out of the early version of the talk because I was thinking I was going to highlight cultural differences. I was going to talk about the differences in the cognitive mechanics that go into why we decide to do act in certain ways. And some of the research I was doing in these books, the guys were talking about this. They had these formal scientific studies to back up why they could say that the thought processes were different between the two cultures.

But one of those books, as I was reading through it -- and I kept sensing that this wasn't the right thing to talk about -- one of the guys said that there was this study about Japanese people going to live in the U.S., and the U.S. people going to live in Japan, that said that after they've been there for some time they would take all the mannerisms and behaviors of those cultures. And when I read that, that's when I realized that's really the key.

And if you come out to China with a big long list of all of the things to watch out for and avoid and, "here's what you should expect from China," you've screwed it up right there, because you have all of these expectations on your list, in your pocket, and you're going to subscribe to that and be like, "Oh, he's behaving that way because of X."

When in fact when you sit down with him and say, "Are you being all quiet and not coming to work on time because this book says it's because of this?" And in fact he'll say, "No, actually my daughter is sick." Or, "No, actually that Western designer pissed me off, because he asked me to do something without following the process."

There's a story behind it all. And when you've got that list, it's an excuse to not ask what any of the questions about it are. That is why I was just, "Forget this. Throw it out the window."

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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