Abstract

Globalization of engineering design teams occurs both in industry and also in the engineering classroom. Strategic needs for operating multi-site operations and inter-organizational alliances call for more effective boundary-spanning partnerships: inter-divisional, inter-organizational, and often, multi-country partnerships. This paper reports a multi-discipline research study — involving engineering, anthropology and telecommunications elements — on global engineering design teams. US engineering students from mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering worked together with counterparts from China and the Netherlands. The students learned advanced telecommunication media and transcultural communication skills needed to carry out the tri-continental design project. They used an active learning process called transcultural incident reporting that focuses on cultural and power issues that must be managed in order to accomplish high quality design. The engineers’ reports show a gain in understanding of the cultural and power issues that affect boundary-spanning project performance.

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