Cultural Competency – How Does it Help?

Dianne Hofner Saphiere:

Excellent “Cultural Effective” example by our friend and colleague Marilyn Gardner.

Originally posted on Communicating.Across.Boundaries :

police

Four years ago the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) conducted a raid on a mosque in Miami, Florida. What could have been a disastrous, public relations nightmare for both the Muslim community and the FBI was carried out so well and so carefully that most of us had no idea the raid took place. I wrote about it then, but I bring it up again now.

I believe this story has good insight into how cultural competency helps in any area of work.

I am not one to praise the FBI or government in general, but it is important to give credit and recognition where it is deserved. I was amazed with the thoughtfulness and cultural awareness with which the raid was carried out. All the evidence points to actions that took into account the larger Muslim community and efforts that were taken to inform and involve this community.

First: The story…

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Are You an Expert?

Clients want to hire experts. Are you an expert? I hope not! At least, not in the sense many of us traditionally think of “experts.”

Cross-cultural service providers need to be deeply competent in a variety of disciplines: intercultural communication, learning theory, the context of the organization or community, the people involved, etc. However, even though clients frequently push us into the role of “the expert with the answers,” assuming that role tends to be the wrong approach to building intercultural competence. That’s probably why I find the video below so amusing, and why Cultural Detective Facilitator Certifications focus on facilitation competence rather than information delivery.

Sure, cross-cultural effectiveness may require that we know how to tie a sari correctly, bow appropriately, or kiss the expected number of times. And we need to know the business at hand, e.g., the requirements of virtual teaming or methods of procurement—the specifics of what we’re involved in. It may require that we know how to draw red lines, as in the video. These things require information—a positivist approach. There may be a single “right” answer.

Most often, a client tells an expert what he wants, and then hopes the expert will simply “make it happen.” No need for the client to get overly involved; just leave it up to the expert. When a client (or student) asks an expert a question, they want a clear, specific answer—not “it depends.” Yet, in cross-cultural situations, so much does depend. “Correct” answers are contextual: how well do you know someone, are you meeting them socially or professionally, what country and region are you in, what social strata? Do you want to build market share or gain return on investment? Are you new to a market or have you been there for decades? What’s your reputation? A relativist approach allows for cultural and contextual differences—key to effectiveness and appropriateness.

While both positivism and relativism have their place in developing cross-cultural competence, the real change-maker is in a constructivist approach. The Japanese may generally do something a certain way, but that doesn’t mean an expat, immigrant, or visitor should or must do it that way. People need to find their way of being successful in a new environment—a way that works for them personally. True intercultural effectiveness requires client engagement, along with expert guidance.

Take my friend Doug. He is US American, and he has a loud and infectious laugh that he regularly engages in with a wide-open mouth and a slap on his leg. Most definitely not common Japanese practice, right? So, when he goes to Japan, do you take a positivist approach, and teach him a Japanese-style laugh? Will that be the key to his success in Japan? Do you compare Japanese laughter to US American laughter, or his friends’ laughter to his? In Doug’s case, when he moved to Japan he didn’t really adjust his laughter at all. His laugh is a core part of who he is, and most Japanese colleagues and friends love him for it. Sure, they may have been surprised at first. But his laugh is genuine, it’s him, and they understand that. Doug was highly successful in Japan, perhaps despite his loud laugh, but more probably, in part, because of it. He adapted his style in other ways.

Such is the constructivist nature of intercultural competence. Together, we co-construe, we “construct” our shared experience, and through that, we make sense of our relationships. Cultural Detective takes a constructivist approach. Yes, the CD Method contains elements of positivism (Values Lenses) and relativism (Worksheets), too, but they are used with the goal of learning about ourselves and others, and creating bridges that will enable each of us, and our organizations and communities, to be our best.

“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers,
he poses the right questions.”
—Claude Lévi-Strauss
French Anthropologist, 1908-2009

In dealing with a client that wants an “expert,” the clue to remember is what kind of expert you are. Effective intercultural facilitation is difficult, and we as facilitators do not have the “answers.” The “answers” reside in the client, the team members, community members, or key stakeholders. Our job is to bring the answers out, help make them known, help refine them so they are real and workable, and so that they enable intercultural effectiveness. This requires a high level of expertise: to help the client look inward and develop the answers themselves, when they are looking for a “magic” solution from an outside expert.

Learning opportunities to acquire good, effective intercultural facilitation skills are often hard to find. We are pleased to offer workshops that will help you gain and improve facilitation skills useful in intercultural contexts. Our Cultural Detective Facilitation Certification workshops are quite popular with both new and experienced facilitators, who always learn more than they expected. Three opportunities are scheduled this year:

  1. pre-conference of the SIETAR Europa Congress in Valencia, Spain,
  2. As part of the Summer Institute of the International Educators’ Training Program (IETP) at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada,
  3. And at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) in Portland, Oregon, USA. Click on any of the links above for more information or to register.

In addition, Daniel Yalowitz and I are offering a course at SIIC, “Gaining Gaming Competence: The Meaning Is in the Debriefing.” This experiential workshop focuses on current best practices and theories for creating, facilitating, and debriefing meaningful intercultural games, activities, and simulations. This is an excellent opportunity to gain a wealth of information in a short period of time. More information can be found here: http://www.intercultural.org/11.php.

Please join us for one of these upcoming events, to hone your intercultural facilitation skills to an “expert” level! In this way we can accomplish our shared goals of spreading intercultural competence to build understanding, collaboration, equity and justice in our world.

Our Tribal Elders, part 1 | Djibouti Jones

Our Tribal Elders and the Global Nomad Medicine Wheel, from Djibouti Jones’ blog

I love Djibouti Jones, though I am new to Paul Asbury Seaman. Paul wrote a paper summarizing the huge contributions that Ruth Van Reken, Ruth Hill Useem, David Pollock and Norma McCaig have made to the intercultural field and the world. They all contributed to definitions and recognition of the term, “Third Culture Kids.” Djibouti Jones is publishing the paper, in its entirety, over six Tuesdays. The first segment is linked below.

Our Tribal Elders, part 1 | Djibouti Jones.

Introduction

A culture doesn’t happen by accident. Neither does it simply evolve through inevitable phases and developments. The beliefs and emotional tone of a culture are based on countless discoveries and the meanings assigned to the structures created. As global nomads, our culture is largely invisible. It has no geographic boundaries and no designated symbols. We resort to surveys and anecdotes, cautiously giving labels to the patterns we see. What we name becomes an identity, but one that is never quite complete because the labels are porous and the patterns keep shifting. A roving heart and ambiguity are commonly part of the global nomad legacy; but they are also aspects of a way of life many of us have chosen—with all its costs and merits. Living in limbo means we might often feel anchorless, but it also suggests that we are good sailors and bridge builders.

Instead of pushing boundaries, we pull on them—curious about what they are made of, what function they are supposed to serve.

We find commonalities where others may see none. We ourselves can be bridges across the limbo, not to explain it away, but to provide someplace solid from which to explore it.”…

Join Us at SIETAR Europa in Valencia!

Logo_updatedHave you registered for the SIETAR Europa conference in Valencia, Spain May 21-23? The conference is the leading gathering of interculturalists in Europe, and is attended by many professionals from around the world. It is known for the quality of presentations and the intellectual exchange.

“This congress welcomes all those whose life and work puts them at the interface of cultures, from the perspectives of economy, society, and education with the aim of reshaping intercultural discourse, questioning our current cultural paradigms and exploring new thinking to help us navigate complexity in our emerging global world.”
—SIETAR Europa

Since our founding, the Cultural Detective Team has been committed to transparency, professional development, and vetting by our peers, and this congress will be no exception. Cultural Detective will have a huge presence at the congress, and we sincerely hope to see you there!

Firstly, Tatyana Fertelmeyster will conduct a Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification on May 18th and 19th. So many of you who live in Europe ask us for European-based certifications, so here is your chance! This is the only one scheduled in Europe this year. Attendance is limited, so please register early.

Also on May 19th, Pari Namazie and I will have the pleasure of conducting a pre-conference workshop, heavily based on Cultural Detective tools, entitled Blended Culture Identity, Global Ethics and their Value for Leadership and Teaming. I am very excited about where this workshop will take us. Ethics and authenticity are of crucial importance to cross-cultural leadership and teaming, and are too often overlooked.

A third CD-based session will be held on Saturday, the 23rd May at 10:00: Firearms in US Society: a Case Study about the Role of Interculturalists in Polarized and Politicized National Conversations, by Jeffrey Cookson and myself.

You’ll find pre-conference and concurrent sessions by Cultural Detective authors Marie-Therese Claes, Patricia Coleman, Heather Robinson, Catherine Roignan, George Simons, Jolanda Tromp, Rita Wuebbeler, Tatyana and myself, plus sessions by CD translators, certified facilitators and partners. We look forward to meeting you or reconnecting with you in Valencia!

Learn more about the city of Valencia.
Take Cultural Detective author George Simons’ diversophy® quiz on Valencia.

No one could see the colour blue until modern times | Business Insider

This is an excellent article on how our language and culture affect what we see and notice, and what we don’t. Powerful stuff! Check it out. No one could see the colour blue until modern times | Business Insider.

“If you act like a ripe plum, bats will eat you.”

(Proverb submitted by Lamar Gaye, Minnesota, USA, to BBC NEWS Africa website, Africa’s proverb of the day, 29 December 2014)

I so love proverbs—they give a view into a culture that cannot be obtained through any other source. They are tiny stories, gems in the midst of daily life. Although often I only read them in translation, they still provide valuable insight into my own and other’s values and worldviews.

Imagine my delight when I found a collection of African proverbs, contributed by folks from all over, to a site by BBC NEWS Africa. Featuring proverbs sent in during January 2015 and December 2014, I think you will find at least one that delights you or provides fresh insight into a situation.

800px-Monkey_family_in_moss_tree

By Irvin Calicut (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

“Monkeys do not advise their young ones to be careful on trees. They just remind them of the distance to the ground.”
—Sent by Geoffrey Kosgei, Nairobi, Kenya to BBC NEWS Africa website, Africa’s proverb of the day, 5 November 2014

Did you know that buried within each Cultural Detective package are proverbs and sayings to illustrate the culture’s core values? We periodically convert some of these to graphic format and share them on social media, archiving them on the Cultural Detective Pinterest board and Facebook page. Our authors have fun remembering what their parents or grandparents said to them, and often are surprised when they find out they were each told the same thing—or a close variant of it—even though they grew up in different circumstances!

These “childhood messages” often echo in our minds for years and continue to influence who we are today. We may even find that our core values are reflected in those proverbs and sayings that were shared by important people in our past. Our popular package, Cultural Detective Self-Discovery, uses our favorite proverbs and sayings as one method to investigate our own personal values. Cultural Detective Online now includes Cultural Detective Self-Discovery, which allows you to build your own Personal Values Lens—just as beautiful as the others contained within our series—using a variety of investigative methods.

Of course, there are books with collections of proverbs, but the ones I like best are those that I happen upon in everyday speech. Keep your ears open and let us know what gems of wisdom you hear—from yourself and those around you!

Cognitive Dissonance or Duality?

Either OrShall we, as team members or neighbors, do something “my way” or “your way”? When in Rome, do we do as the Romans do, or as headquarters wants us to do? As organizational effectiveness consultants, diversity and inclusion practitioners, or as intercultural trainers, educators and coaches, so much of what we do is to help people learn to manage differences. “Either-or” thinking is appropriate when there are answers that are independently correct. Do we need to get to the top of the mountain? A helicopter, hiking, tram, or driving are all possible “correct” solutions to our problem. What shall we eat for our lunch together? We both may enjoy sushi, tacos, or lasagna; a choice is probably much better than eating them all in the same meal. Solutions to many of the issues that face us in daily life, however, involve the interdependence of two or more “right” answers. Children should learn to share and to take care of themselves. A new business may need to build market share (which requires ongoing investment) and get a return on its initial investment. An NGO needs to follow global protocol and provide services in a locally appropriate manner. A teacher needs to correct students and encourage them. These are not either-or choices; the “correct” answer involves “both-and” thinking—the type of thinking that Ash Beckham discusses in the video below. But such thinking—holding contradictory ideas simultaneously and accepting them both as “correct” and even “necessary”—is often distrusted. It is sometimes seen as evasive or indecisive. George Orwell coined a name for it with a very negative connotation: “doublethink,” which was the result of brainwashing by the state in his novel, 1984. “Both-and” thinking requires more effort, and involves mental and sometimes also emotional stress. Thus, we get the term “cognitive dissonance.”

“Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” —wikipedia

That’s why the work of interculturalists and diversity and inclusion professionals is so very important. Working or living together effectively involves give-and-take; it is a process. There is not one “right” way and one “wrong” way. Sometimes we may do it your way, sometimes my way, and hopefully, many times, we are creating better, more innovative, effective, and enjoyable ways to do whatever it is we need to do, by using the unique talents that all of us have to offer. And that, of course, is what Cultural Detective is all about—learning how to collaborate and work together, while recognizing that there are often many “right” ways to get things done!

Part of the #MyGlobalLife Link-Up

How Storytelling Affects the Brain

brainOnstorytelling OneSpot

I was recently tweeted this graphic, which research shows me is taken from a larger infographic on content marketing on OneSpot. https://www.onespot.com/blog/infographic-the-science-of-storytelling/

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of both teaching and entertainment. It is the way history was traditionally recorded, how values were inculcated, and how families and neighborhoods bonded.

Storytelling is the core around which Cultural Detective is based. While the Cultural Detective Method is grounded in extensive intercultural theory, using Cultural Detective for development, learning, conflict resolution or team building involves listening to, telling, reading, or otherwise interacting with stories, or, in detective parlance, incidents. The debut of Cultural Detective The Netherlands involved a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception in Amsterdam, during which professionals acted out critical incidents for those attending. Trainers have turned their training rooms into theaters, acting out the stories in the Cultural Detective series with the learners. Why so much emphasis on stories?Why?

Let’s start by watching my interview with Kelli McLoud-Schingen, one of our CD team members, who is a professional storyteller and actress, as well as a dynamite diversity practitioner and interculturalist.

Storytelling does, indeed, link the head, heart and mind—an integration that is key to the development of intercultural competence. Interestingly for those working across cultures, however, science is now finding that stories help us to better understand others’ intentions and relate to one another better! My experience has shown that stories can help us to develop empathy, particularly with those very different from ourselves.

“There was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others.

Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions ‘theory of mind.’

Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.”
—Dr. Raymond Mar, York University, Toronto

Furthermore, stories allow us to “practice,” even if in our own minds, how we might respond under various circumstances. Stories can “take us” to India, China or Brazil, and help us imagine ourselves in an interaction there, so that when we actually visit, it’s not as strange or confusing. Stories are a form of mental, rather than computerized, simulation.

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that ‘runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.’”
—Annie Murphy Paul, The New York Times, “Your Brain on Fiction”

Finally, analyzing stories enables the learner to look at real people in real situations, in all their complexity—personality, age, gender, ethnicity, religious tradition, nationality—rather than as one-dimensional generalizations or stereotypes.

If you have not yet subscribed to Cultural Detective Online, or attended one of our complimentary webinars, you are missing out on an incredibly robust and affordable tool that includes hundreds of stories to support your learning! We hope to see you there soon!

 

SIETAR Europa, a Profile, Valencia, a New Book

SE Journal coverThe March-May 2015 issue of the SIETAR Europa Journal is out today, and I thought some of you might want to take a look. Pari Namazie conducted a lengthy interview with me when I was last in Vienna, and it is published in the journal on pages 3-9. I find it flattering, embarrassing, encouraging and mortifying, all at the same time. It is humbling to have the honor to be profiled in this way. Thank you, Pari and Patrick Schmidt, editor. Perhaps it will give you insight into some of the experience that has contributed to Cultural Detective.

Also very important in this issue is news of the upcoming SE Congress in Valencia, Spain, 21-23 May. Please plan to attend! There are a wealth of terrific pre-conference workshops, including two focused on Cultural Detective, as well as incredible concurrent sessions, all in the gorgeous setting of Valencia. The full schedule is not yet posted, but you can register for the Congress now and then register later for any pre-conference workshops you want to attend. I hope to see you there!

Finally, I’m very excited that my old friend Joseph Shaules has published his much-anticipated book, The Intercultural Mind, and George Simons has written an insightful review of it on page 16.

You can find the issue of the Journal here.

Mapping the World

http://www.clker.com/cliparts/D/v/4/h/a/X/globe-map-hi.png

“A surprisingly large number of the world’s cities remain unmapped. Nobody knows exactly how many, but cities of more than a million people in the developing world get by every day without an accurate map. Development staff in those cities trade photocopies of photocopies, scrawl the names of landmarks on post-it notes, use satellite images that lack street names, or just ask locals.”
—Chris Michael, The Guardian, 6 October 2014

Many of us, myself included, take accurate street maps for granted. Although we know services such as Google Maps can be wrong, generally our GPS or satnav will get us to where we want to go. But in many less affluent, large cities of the world, no maps exist.

An article I read in The Guardian recounted the difficulties that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has encountered in working with patients from areas that weren’t mapped. It is hard to trace the spread of a disease if there is no map of the area, or if patients can’t tell you where they live.

There is, however, an exciting, innovative project to create a free and open map of the entire world. Missing Maps works through a team of volunteers to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world. “The point of the project is that the maps will all be open source,” says Missing Maps coordinator Pete Masters. “It will be illegal for anyone to charge anyone to use them—meaning local people will have total access to them, not just to look at, but to edit and develop.”

Missing Maps supports the OpenStreetMap project, which features local knowledge and a community of volunteer-contributors from a diversity of fields that includes professional cartographers as well as enthusiastic mapping amateurs. According to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) website: “OpenStreetMap is a project to create a free and open map of the entire world, built entirely by volunteers surveying with GPS, digitizing aerial imagery, and collecting and liberating existing public sources of geographic data. The information in OpenStreetMap can fill in the gaps in base map data to assist in responses to disasters and crisis.”

Why is this important? The lack of accurate maps in a humanitarian crisis can impede assistance, and even hinder the making of decisions about the best response. That’s where the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) comes in—they act as a “bridge” between the OpenStreetMap Community and humanitarian responders. In the event of a crisis, HOT searches for existing data and then contacts humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis to determine their needs. This is a critical function, as HOT can then mobilize their community to focus on a specific area.

HOT can both coordinate remote workers for map digitalization and also train locals in mapping their communities. Having maps available will assist not only in times of crisis, but also in planning for building new infrastructure. Here is a visualization of the response to the earthquake in Haiti by the OpenStreetMap community.

I was struck at how this “bridging” done by HOT is so similar to the cultural bridging people learn through the Cultural Detective Method. It is like there are two cultures: the “mappers” and the “responders”—each with its own values, behaviors, and communication styles. What HOT does is to make sure the “mappers” are meeting the needs of the “responders” in a way that enables responders to understand and use the information. Both have good intentions, but without the “bridge” HOT provides they might never connect, let alone connect in a way that is so beneficial.

Often, people who are able to build cultural bridges are looked at by others as resources. What many people don’t realize is that sometimes the person adept at building bridges across cultural divides does not have culture-specific knowledge on which to rely. Rather, they have a set of skills that facilitates communication, beginning with suspending judgment and listening.

That’s the kind of resource HOT is. It doesn’t tell the responders where to go or what to do. It asks humanitarian organizations what maps and data they need to do their jobs, listens to the answers, and then this amazing group of volunteers gets to work. To learn more about this project, please read the entire article here.

And join us to learn more about the Cultural Detective Method and developing skills to build cultural bridges. Remember, we host free monthly webinars to get you started—access registration information here.