Friday, July 15, 2011

Joint Venture: China LGO and LGO Meeting and Sharing

Background: LGO has a sister program with Shanghai Jiao Tong University that was started in 2007.  It is referred to as CLGO and is also focused on manufacturing and operations.  CLGO students visit LGO every summer and, every other spring, the LGOs go to China during their International Plant Trek.

This year, at the beginning of July, almost 30 CLGO students came to the United States to tour east coast cities (they visited Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York) and visit MIT.  Before Boston, the CLGOs had their own tour guides, but once they got to Boston and Cambridge, we were their hosts.

We had a welcome event at the sailing pavilion with introductions.  There, we first got to speak with the CLGOs in depth.  Their English is very good - they said that the cases they read for class are the same ones we do.  Even though the cases are written in English (which is definitely impressive), the class discussion is still usually in Chinese.  We shared dinner and they presented us each with a lovely gift - a business card case and key ring set with traditional chinese designs.

Meet and greet and gift sharing at the Sailing Pavilion
The CLGOs also came to a number of our classes and saw how we learned about leadership, lean/six sigma principles and high velocity organizations.  The Lean/Six Sigma class was probably the most interactive because were were doing our airplane building simluations.

Siwen (Sterling), Si (Steve) and Sam work on lego organization

The CLGO synergy committee, made up of LGO students, did a great job at planning meals and activities for our Chinese guests, many of which we could also attend.  I had an Italian dinner in Boston's North End with CLGO students on Friday night (helping decode the menu and choose representative Italian dishes for them to try) and went on a Whale Watch out of Boston Harbor with them on Sunday.  We saw many humpback whales that afternoon, feeding and diving all around the boat.

The group waiting on the docks to go on the whale watch
An awesome whale tail!!
Other activities we shared were many other meals and a trip to go berry picking a little outside of Boston.  We had received feedback from the previous year's visit that our Chinese guests wanted to see more non-city life, so berry picking seemed like a nice, sometimes literal, taste of nature!  During the berry trip, besides picking the fruit itself, the farm owners gave a tour of the processing facilities they had so we got some operations experience as well.
Talking about how things work on a farm

Transportation for the day

Xiaoming (Tina) looks really happy
Zach is also competing for the "really happy berry picker" prize.  He was the one who bought many pints of blueberries at Haymarket a week or two earlier...

The day was a tremendous success

The visit was informative for students from all countries.  I felt like I was able to learn a little more what actual life was like (the students with families reminded us that they just had one kid and couldn't have more) and how the US is really perceived (very independent rather than community oriented, ex. many Americans move away from home and into their own homes relatively early in life). We got to share things as well such as "No, there are no outlet malls accessible via subway."

But seriously, we shared America with the CLGOs by answering many questions, besides just where they could get "good stuff cheap."  Although, yes, the CLGO students wanted to buy luxury brands for people back home since things like Coach purses are less expensive here than they are in China, they also came to group events excited to see us again and get to share more experiences.  We talked about everything: from habits in class to the American police heirarchy (local/state/national) after we saw some cops on the street after we left a restaurant. 

Overall, they CLGOs were very congenial and eager, open to trying all sorts of foods (though some types were definitely preferred more than others, Mexican did not seem to be popular) and doing all sorts of things. They were very courteous and thoughtful, too (I was offered a seat on the subway multiple times, one got me a drink at the welcome party, etc.).

At our farewell dinner, rather than say goodbye, the CLGOs said "Welcome to China!".  I thought that this was a nice way to finish because it spoke of another beginning rather than just an ending.  I would like to go on the international plant trek next spring and am looking forward to seeing them again soon.

I hope this can be us sitting together on the other side of the world next time

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