Let’s Investigate What Makes Cultural Detective Unique

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Country Navigator™, GlobeSmart®, CultureWizard™, Cultural Navigator® and their logos are the property of their respective parent companies.

We get calls and emails every day, asking us how Cultural Detective compares with some of the other intercultural tools on the market. Thank goodness people are passionate about developing intercultural knowledge and skills, and that there are so many intercultural tools available! That’s a big change in the last two decades, and a huge step in the direction of building intercultural competence in our organizations, our communities, and ourselves!

Most of the well-known development tools in the field—Cultural Detective®, Country NavigatorTM, GlobeSmart®, CultureWizardTM, and Cultural Navigator®, among others, use a values-based approach to understanding cultural differences. Such a method has proven significantly more effective than a “do’s and don’ts” approach, because behavior depends on context. Thus, do’s-and-don’ts advice is frequently erroneous because it has little or no connection to a specific situation you may find yourself confronting.

In addition to a shared focus on values, these tools share the aim of improving cross-cultural understanding. That, however, is about where the similarity ends. Comparing Cultural Detective and the other tools on the market is difficult because, according to leading intercultural competence researcher Doug Stuart, “it’s like comparing apples and oranges.” Both fruits are tasty, and they go well together in a salad, but they are oh-so-different on nearly every other criterion!

Goals

Cultural Detective (CD) is a process-based tool designed to improve communication and collaboration. The other tools mentioned above are designed to compare and contrast cultures. There are strengths in both of these goals, and they can complement one another very well. But the differing goals make these tools fundamentally different species.

Dimensions

Dimensions-based tools allow users to easily compare whether Chinese are more group-oriented than Japanese or Brazilians, and how we personally compare with the national averages of each of those places. The creators of the best of these tools conduct a lot of research to produce statistically reliable comparison data. According to Doug, the strength and weakness of a dimensional comparison (for example, where a culture or an individual stands on Hierarchy vs. Egalitarianism) is that we get a clear general picture of how different two populations may be, but no specifics on how that difference looks behaviorally. The numbers on the scales produced by these tools are culture-specific, but the categories are universal and broad.

Process

Cultural Detective helps develop skill and strategy, both culture-general and culture-specific. The core method is a process designed for use and practice over time, in specific situations and multiple cultures, so that it becomes second nature. Thus, Cultural Detective provides appropriate stimulation at all stages of intercultural competence development. Users develop critical thinking skills to discern similarities, differences, and how best to leverage them for mutual benefit.

Context

Cultural Detective is contextually grounded—the method centers on stories or critical incidents. This reinforces the need to understand people as complex individuals who are influenced by multiple cultures including gender, generation, professional training, sexual orientation, spiritual tradition, organizational and national culture, and lived multicultural experience—not just passport nationality.

Inside-Out vs. Outside-In

Cultural Detective looks at culture from the inside-out. Values Lenses focus on the core values natives of the culture hold near and dear. These are the same values that often confuse non-members of the culture and get in the way of cross-cultural collaboration. This approach enables a native, or someone very familiar with a culture, to explain the culture in a meaningful way to a newcomer. We might consider these Value Lenses as extremely culture-specific “themes” (internal discourse, logic or “common sense”) that are intimately tied to behaviors, and easily and meaningfully illuminated through stories. A culture is a unique expression of these themes, which are difficult or impossible to capture successfully within broad global dimensions.

The other tools mostly look at culture from the outside-in, comparing national cultures according to well-researched categories such as Power Distance or Achievement/Ascription. A table of cultural dimensions that contrasts China and Japan tells you nothing practical about how people behave. Comparing Cultural Detective Values Lenses for China and Japan offers a completely different, immediately applicable line of inquiry: what are the underlying motivators of people’s behavior? Both approaches have their strengths, and many successful coaches, trainers, and educators use them in combination.

Self-Assessment

Many of the other intercultural tools on the market provide users a self-assessment, which, when completed, statistically compares them with their home society and other cultures. Users love seeing themselves, their values and style, especially when correlated with numbers or illustrated in a chart—it’s interesting and engaging.

Cultural Detective users reflect on their personal values, developing a Personal Values Lens that they can compare and contrast with those of team members, their own or other cultures. One approach is dimensions-based, the other based on qualitative analysis. Used in combination, one enhances the other. But they are two very different animals.

Experiential

Cultural Detective Online encourages learners to upload and analyze real stories from their own lives. Users can easily integrate the system’s Values Lenses and Worksheet into analysis of their personal critical incidents. They can invite team members to help them fine-tune the story and the debriefing. As Doug says, “While the cultural themes of Cultural Detective Value Lenses are very transparent to natives and, thus, easily illustrated by stories, the dimensions-based tools usually require an experienced cultural trainer to create ‘critical incidents’ illustrating universal dimension differences, which are more difficult to specify behaviorally across cultures (unless one is very familiar with both cultures). Simply summarized, universal dimensions are generic; they provide a good ‘first look’ at how different two cultures might be. To actually understand those differences as they play out behaviorally, we need the Cultural Detective’s Value Lenses.”

Cultural Detective is not your father’s intercultural tool, to paraphrase an auto industry advert. It utilizes a “culture-specific” approach, while simultaneously building users’ “culture-general” understanding. It provides not just a knowledge base, but a personal skill base from which to strengthen intercultural competence. Best of all, it can be used in a variety of settings to help facilitate intercultural communication and collaboration. Our global team of 130 continues to work hard to collaboratively build a productivity tool that will deepen your learning and jumpstart your effectiveness. Give it a spin! Join us in one of our upcoming free webinars to learn more, and receive a 3-day pass to Cultural Detective Online!

We Are Not (Just) Our Nationality(ies)!

Who of us is a single story? As Chimamanda Adichie so eloquently told us, insisting on a single story is to “flatten” one’s experience. While I am USA born, it definitely irks me when those I know, often interculturalists, insist on defining me purely through that Lens. Yes, I am US American; I claim it. I have also lived overseas half my life; surely that has had no small influence on who I am today? I’m a woman, of a certain age, a mother, a friend. I’m in a committed relationship, I own a small business, I am an immigrant.

We are many things, and different aspects of our identities rise to the fore depending on the context. Shouldn’t intercultural competence enable us to get to know ourselves and others in the fullness of who we are? Two-and-a-half years ago I wrote a post on this blog about the many layers of our cultural identity.

Today, I am very proud to say that Cultural Detective Online makes it very easy to look at how real people interact in real situations, and to reflect on how our many cultures might be influencing us (or others) in a given interaction. Did I react that way because I’m a Mom? Because I’m a Baby Boomer? Or just because I’m me? Cultural Detective Online is a cross-cultural effectiveness tool that doesn’t reduce us to a single story, but rather encourages us to get to know ourselves and others as fully and wholly human. Take a look:

Remember, Values Lenses represent the core values of entire societies of millions of people; they are not intended to be used as yet another “box” into which to stereotype individuals. Try using a Values Lens to gather clues as to why someone may have responded in the the manner she or he did. Then, with perhaps a little more understanding about the other’s positive intent, you can engage in a more effective dialogue, and learn to collaborate more enjoyably and productively.

How do you use the multiple Lenses available to you within CD Online? How often do you upload stories from your everyday work or life, and purposefully learn from them? What creative things are you doing with Cultural Detective Online to further your intercultural competence? We would love to hear your experience!

World Day for Cultural Diversity

unlogoMay 21st is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. It is a day on which we are all encouraged to do one thing to promote diversity and inclusion in our spheres of influence.

What one thing will you do today? Please share!

As for me, besides publishing this blog post, today I’ll be working on designs for two different workshops, one on identity and authenticity in our blended culture world, and the second on strategic development of inclusive organizations. I will be finishing up the editing on a second chapter of a book on cultural differences, and talking to professionals about conducting webinars to promote diversity, inclusion and cross-cultural collaboration. Last night I attended a book signing for a new novel centered around immigration, published by a dear friend of mine. Who knows what else this day might bring?

“Our cultural diversity is a stimulator of creativity. Investing in this creativity can transform societies. It is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change.”
—Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

Please do share what one thing you’re doing today to promote inclusion, collaboration and justice in our world! Thanks for being on the journey with me and our terrific Cultural Detective team!

Strong, Strategic Global Leadership

leadershipCompanies today need to be good at whatever their main business is, but they also need to be quickly adaptable to change. And, these days, they need to adhere to a strict set of ethical standards that are demanded by an increasingly informed and diverse customer base. Such a tough bundle of abilities requires strong, strategic leadership.

I recently came across an interesting infographic from New England College’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies, and thought you would like to see it. The graphic summarizes the findings of six different studies—from McKinsey, Deloitte, LRN, the Center for Creative Leadership, and Harvard—saying that companies are seeking:
  • Simultaneous growth, cost reduction and increased innovation.
  • Better alignment of organizational values and operational behavior.
  • To create environments in which employees are comfortable voicing their opinions and ideas—inclusive spaces.

The graphic illustrates the four leadership skills needed to achieve these too-often elusive goals. To view the infographic in larger format click here, then click on the image that opens.

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Leadership Skill #1: Ethical Leadership

Interestingly, the top skill identified is ethical leadership—studies correlate business success to ethical initiatives. Aligning organizational values with operational behavior, and ensuring ethical practice across the organization, is all the more challenging given the international nature of business today. Add in the diversity of the worldviews and “cultural sense” of the mobile workforces of this millennium, and things become even more complex.

Let’s face it, employees in different geographies, from different cultural backgrounds, view the concept of “ethical” differently. They operationalize corporate values differently. Cultural Detective Global Business Ethics (CD GBE) is a perfect tool to aid organizations in achieving the alignment that’s needed. The package is designed to help leadership think through the cross-cultural permutations—the ways members of different cultures may operationalize organizational values and ethics—and develop strategy to build alignment.

CD GBE can also be used to help train staff worldwide, so they know how your organizational values translate into everyday operations. It can help open the dialogue among all levels of the organization to ensure your values are understood and implemented consistently—and with local appropriateness.

Leadership Skill #2: Use Your Power Wisely

Power is a leadership trait no matter where in the world you work, whether that power is real or perceived. In certain locations power may be based on title or position in the hierarchy. In others it is based on expertise—but does this mean a person is perceived powerful due to credentials and education, or to skills and experience? The Values Lenses and critical incidents in every Cultural Detective package can help you and your organization learn to project and perceive power wisely, no matter where or with whom you work.

Another key aspect of power resides in the relationships we build, the influence we have on others. Whom we trust, whom we allow to sway us, is perhaps one of the most culturally determined aspects of our lives.

Do we trust the person who speaks plainly (who could be perceived by some as rude or uneducated), or the person who speaks diplomatically (and could be perceived as “brown-nosing” or unprincipled)? Are we swayed by the person who tries to convince us via logic and argument, by someone who shows us by example, or by the person who enthusiastically invites us to use a new service? Again, the Cultural Detective series will help leaders and a global workforce better understand and navigate such differences.

Leadership Skill #3: Manage Crises

The Chinese characters for “crisis” remind us it can be a danger or an opportunity. Leaders can convert crisis into opportunity by knowing themselves and being solidly grounded in their values. A well-rooted tree will sway in the wind and not become uprooted. Cultural Detective Self Discovery is the perfect tool to enable leaders to clarify their personal core values, and to reconcile them with organizational values, the values of the various cultures in which they do business, and the values of other members of their team. Leaders will be better able to manage crises; to anticipate their reactions so they can wisely choose, in the moment, how to respond; and to be better able to explain their actions to others who may not share or enact their values in the same way. Try it out with a pilot group of your leaders, and you will be amazed by the results.

Leadership Skill #4: Cultivate Change

Change is cultivated by providing opportunities for employees to practice what they’ve learned. Cultural Detective Online (CD Online) enables you to provide just that opportunity—teach a skill, then encourage your employees actively practice it for several weeks, using the CD Online system for reflection and learning. Several weeks of on-the-job practice leads to employee retention, and provides a practical method to resolve employee conflicts and encourage understanding.

Change is also effected by leaders realizing that workers’ motivations may be different than theirs. Research in the graphic supports this idea. And, that is the core Cultural Detective process, as you’ve by now surmised—perspective taking. There are two specific packages in the series, as well, to aid in this regard—Cultural Detective Global Diversity and Inclusion, and Cultural Detective Global Teamwork. Wonderfully, both are included in the very reasonably priced (less than US$100/year for access to 60 packages) CD Online.

What are you waiting for? Are you a strong, strategic global leader? Do you want to help others to be? Learn how to use Cultural Detective Online by joining one of our free webinars or get your subscription now!

 

Ten Years of Building Respect, Understanding, Justice and Collaboration!

P1110373Thank you for joining us on the journey to build respect, justice and collaboration across cultures!

A group of our authors recently gathered in Mazatlán, Mexico to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this collaborative project, Cultural Detective. We held three days of work meetings and a facilitator certification workshop; we hosted a wonderful party that included the indigenous Yoreme Deer Dance; and we played—on the beach, in the water, at restaurants, with music, and all around town!

Our community members will have more celebrations around the world throughout 2014; contact us if you’d like to join one!

Below is a slideshow of just some of the many authors and community members who have contributed to making Cultural Detective such an amazing tool, and to using it to transform the world in which we live, bit by bit.

Are you curious about how Cultural Detective came to be? You might want to read this short history of our project.

We have received quite a few greetings from customers and community members—their videos show the breadth of application of this toolset. Take a look at the anniversary playlist on the Cultural Detective YouTube channel.

Want to become more active, transforming the communities in which you live and work? Join us for a free webinar and three-day pass to Cultural Detective Online, or join the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Third Anniversary 3•11

3-11

AFLO / MAINICHI NEWSPAPER / EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Today in Japan marks three years since the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster in the Tohoku area of Japan—the 3/11 triple disaster. Japanese society marks services for the passing of the dead at specified intervals, including one at the third anniversary of death, making this year especially important. I would like to join my heart and prayers with all those honoring the death of loved ones, and the loss of so much history and heritage.

I occasionally worked in Soma, with some wonderful people. On 3/11 I was so proud that they were able to evacuate hundreds of people in LESS THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES, all of them getting to safety and out to help their families and communities. Most of the facility itself was inundated, much of it lost. Not all were so fortunate. On this third anniversary, 2,636 people are still missing. The official death toll stands at 15,884 in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, according to the National Police Agency. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people still live in ‘temporary’ dwellings, three years later.

For many communities, anxiety over radiation poisoning remains high, as many in Japan discuss either re-opening the nation’s nuclear plants or closing them entirely. National planners wish to get Tohoku areas rebuilt but often there is a sense of disjunction between the views of bureaucrats based in central cities and those of local Tohoku dwellers living in affected communities. The Seattle Times has run an excellent article entitled, “Recovery isn’t in sight 3 years after Japan’s tsunami.” I also found an article about the technological advances that are occurring because of this disaster. I have long been opposed to nuclear power, and pray the Japanese people will find other workable power sources for their needs. Last year at this time many Japanese were wearing masks, as chemical pollutants from China had drifted their way. We need to be better stewards of our planet, and what stronger call has there been?

iejiFor those of you who love movies as I do, this month the first Japanese film on the Fukushima nuclear disaster hit theaters. Entitled Homeland (Ieji or “The Road Home” in Japanese) — it features scenes shot in areas once declared no-go zones by the government due to high radiation levels. The film is about a farming family forced to leave their ancestral lands and live in temporary housing. I know I for one can’t wait to view it.

A college friend of mine who is a long-time personality on Japanese television, Dan Kahl, has been wonderfully responsible about keeping all of us informed about developments in the area of Japan in which he has lived for decades. You can follow Dan on Twitter if you are interested (he often posts in Japanese, and in Tohoku dialect at that).

The 3•11 area is really gorgeous. In closing, I thought it might be a fitting honor to share with you a timelapse movie of the natural beauty of Fukushima Prefecture.

View last year’s anniversary post here.

Venezuela: We Want to be Heard!

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Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

One of my oldest and dearest friends is Venezolana, a teacher who loves her country, fights for the future of children, and hates what’s been happening there—15 years of runaway inflation, shortages, insecurity, lack of opportunities. She write me, “Ay, comadrita, all of this is so sad. They are killing the students. We are very scared. Please pray for us.”

Yesterday we received this very disturbing report, which we immediately passed on via our social media: The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch, by Franciso Toro. The lack of power, lack of voice, lack of justice, finally met a breaking point. People protested. And the reaction from Maduro’s government was swift and violent. Caracas, Valencia, Mérida and San Cristobál have become like war zones.

Protests began innocently enough, with traditional cacerolazos (beating of pots and pans) lead by upstanding citizens. Our friend’s sister is a choir leader at her church; she was attacked by colectivos—state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles—in front of her church while beating a pan. Her glasses were stolen, her photo was taken, and she was threatened with death.

I am repeatedly told that people in Venezuela feel cut off from the international community. Twitter is their only way to really communicate. They desperately want everyone to know what’s going on and how we can help them trying to make change with people power. The Venezuelan diaspora is organizing, called “SOS Venezuela.”

Please do what you can to raise awareness and get help their way. We can transform our world. There is power in each of us, some small step we can take, towards justice and peace.

Check out these additional photos.

Happy Tet—New Year of the Horse!

1555587_10152184068913988_503611650_nMay the Lunar New Year of the Horse bring you health, joy, and much success in spreading cross-cultural respect, understanding, collaboration and justice in this world of ours!

2014 is the Year of the Horse. It is also Cultural Detective‘s 10th anniversary year (our CD project was born in the Year of the Monkey). Characteristics of the horse are unremitting efforts to improve oneself, communication, kindness, perseverance, and a love of travel—which is definitely in keeping with what the CD Method and our community are all about! May this new year bring out these and more positive traits in all of us!

On behalf of the Cultural Detective team, here is Phuong Mai Nguyen, co-author of Cultural Detective Vietnam (and her mother) with a greeting for everyone:

Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (Scoop.it, Paper.li, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. Vekantiebabbels.nl: voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Ubuntu, Nietzsche and a Learning Activity

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This very interesting image is © Jean-Pierre Hallet, and is of an Osani (Congo) children’s game: http://www.connectingdotz.com/osani-circle-game/

A guest post by Joe Lurie

” Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
—Nietzsche

Like the frog who could not understand the sea because it had never left its pond, so we often cannot see, hear or understand the meaning of behaviors beyond our experience.

So what do you think happened when the following game was once proposed to children in an African community? A basket full of luscious fruit was placed near a tree in the distance, and the children were told that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When they were told to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When asked why they had run like that, as one of them could have had all the fruits for himself or herself, they said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

“UBUNTU” in the South African language Xhosa means, “I am because we are.”

Perhaps it was this story that helped me understand the reaction of some Korean journalists on their first field study experience in the United States:

Perhaps, in the spirit of the Nietzsche quote, the Koreans did not hear our music. But then again, perhaps we often do not hear the music of “Ubuntu.”

View Part 1 of this interview here.