Lack of Diversity Correlates with Religious Hostility

world-religious-diversityQuick! What is the most religiously diverse area of the world? Not the Middle East—it’s primarily Muslim, and not Latin America—it’s primarily Christian.

It is, of course, the Asia Pacific region, home to a great diversity of religious traditions including Islam and Christianity, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and loads more. This is just one interesting tidbit from a report on world religions released this week by the Pew Research Center.

More noteworthy than this fact, however, is that some of the world’s least religiously diverse places are home to the highest rates of social violence involving religion. Of the five countries exhibiting the most religious violence:
  • Afghanistan and Somalia both rank in the bottom ten for religious diversity, with a “Religious Diversity Index” or RDI of 0.1.
  • Pakistan ranks as having “low diversity,” with an RDI of 0.8.
  • India (RDI 4.0) and Israel (RDI 4.5) are ranked as “moderately diverse.”

If diversity indeed correlates with lower violence, that is indeed good news for diversity and pluralism, and a desire to discourage violence and promote inclusion are good reasons to put Cultural Detective Islam and Cultural Detective Jewish Culture to good use! And please, help us create packages for other major world religions! Such tools are especially needed given that the Pew Research studies show huge increases in religious hostilities in nearly every world region.

increase in religious hostilities

How did this finding, correlating the lack of religious diversity and hostility, come about? In December 2012, Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life published a report entitled, “The Global Religious Landscape,” based on data gathered in 2010. It found, in part, that:

“Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories … estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.”

01_groupsThen, in January 2014 Pew published the results of another study in its article, “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High.” It involved data on 198 countries:

“A third (33%) of the countries and territories in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.”

socialHostilitiesJust this month, April 4, 2014, the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world, published further analysis that it conducted on the 2010 data. They produced a very interesting index that ranks each country by its level of religious diversity—its RDI, or “Religious Diversity Index.” RDI was calculated based on the percentage of each country’s population that belongs to the eight major religious groups defined by Pew. The closer a country comes to having equal shares of the eight groups, the higher its score on the 10-point index.

To quote from the report,

“In order to have data that were comparable across many countries, the study focused on five widely recognized world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism—that collectively account for roughly three-quarters of the world’s population. The remainder of the global population was consolidated into three additional groups: the religiously unaffiliated (those who say they are atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular); adherents of folk or traditional religions (including members of African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions); and adherents of other religions (such as the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism).”

This, of course, means that diversity within these larger religious sub-groups was not examined.

Linking the findings from phase two (social hostility) and phase three (religious diversity) shows the correlation between lack of religious diversity and social hostility.

I would emphasize that the link between lack of religious diversity and increased social violence does not appear to be a finding reported by Pew Research. Rather, it is an observation written by Emma Green in The Atlantic. The top five—and many others—of the most socially hostile countries do indeed have lower RDIs. However, there are countries with low religious diversity that also show low ratings for religious hostility: Namibia, Marshall Islands, Malta, Kiribati, Cambodia, Djibouti, Lesotho, and Grenada among them.

The research is definitely worth reading. The overall increase in religious hostility is driven by certain types of hostility, including abuse of religious minorities, harassment of women over religious dress, violence to enforce religious norms, mob violence related to religion, and religion-related terrorist violence. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Emma Green ends her article with an interesting thought:

“It may not be true everywhere, but these data suggest something remarkable: Religious pluralism can be, and often is, compatible with peaceful societies.”

What do you think? What is your experience? What successful efforts have you seen to bridge religious differences and increase tolerance and respect?

A Vietnamese Woman’s Experience of the Arab Spring

1947577_10203237474119981_1557351267_nCultural Detective Vietnam co-author, Phuong-Mai Nguyen, spent eight months traveling through 13 countries, tracing the path of Islam from Saudi Arabia to East Asia. She chronicled her journey here on this blog. Mai traveled alone, during the height of the Arab Spring, amidst so many changes and so much turmoil. She met hospitality everywhere she went, learned a whole lot, and fell in love with the people and places.

Mai has just launched her Vietnamese-language book (two, actually) about her journey. The English edition will debut in October. Be sure to catch her powerful short video, below.

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.

Virtual Teaming

With mobile work styles on the rise, management styles need to change and adjust to the new reality. Along with the obvious benefits to employers and workers, there are significant drawbacks to a mobile work style—policies need to be modified, expectations made clear in different ways, and creating a cohesive work group becomes more difficult.

Any organization has its challenges in trying to shape a random collection of people into a “team” of some sort—whether it’s a small group engaged in a specific project, or the group spirit that often emerges from employees working together to accomplish desired results.

Citrix_Mobile_Infographic_v6_hannah

With a mobile work style, how do we achieve a sense of community, a sense of shared purpose that allows employees to perform at their best to achieve the overall goals of the company?

One answer is found in the Method and tools offered by the Cultural Detective series. Cultural Detective: Self-Discovery is designed to explore one’s own values—what makes each of us “tick.” This self-knowledge is the base upon which to build intercultural competence.

Cultural Detective: Bridging offers a way to look at conflicts and to move beyond a win/lose scenario to “bridge” differences to work more constructively together. Theory and practice are interwoven to provide concrete suggestions for learning to resolve difficult situations.

The Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork package is designed to assist both collocated and remote teams in meeting the five major challenges of teamwork in todays’ global environment. While many companies embracing mobile work styles are located in one geographical location, they wrestle with many of the same challenges as virtual teams working internationally. Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork provides insights, processes, and tools to meet these challenges.

And of course, no mobile work style would be complete without a subscription to Cultural Detective Online, the virtual intercultural coach that is available, anywhere anytime 24/7. So helpful to have a reference available before you email or talk to your new colleague from a culture different than your own! Do they value direct, straight-to-the point communication, or a more nuanced approach? Should you spend some time getting to know them personally, or just get directly to the business discussion?

Did you know you can set up groups within Cultural Detective Online so you can work virtually with employees to enhance their intercultural competence? Let us show you how! Join one of our free webinars to learn about the capacities of CD Online, and ask us how your organization can take advantage of group subscriptions to Cultural Detective Online.

Leading Across Cultures

Leading X CulturesBack in February, my friend and respected colleague, Michael Tucker, sent me a white paper on leading across cultures that he had just completed with one of our customers, Right Management. I meant to write about the 24-page report at the time, but, alas, time passes while we are focusing on other exciting things.

This was an interesting study due to its scope: participants included 1867 leaders of 13 nationalities, representing 134 industries.

“As we enter the Human Age, where Talentism is the new Capitalism, no organization can afford to overlook optimizing the performance of leaders who operate globally. … The fact is that cultural issues will dominate the competencies required for global leaders to be successful, now and in the future.”

80% of CEOs and human resource professionals reported Cultural Assimilation as the greatest challenge facing successful expatriates. Study findings showed that global leadership differs from domestic leadership due to the complexity of working with people from different cultures. “The global experience results in leaders developing new worldviews, mindsets, perceptual acumen and perspectives,” the white paper states.

“Leading across cultures is a critical element of leading in the Human Age and unleashing the power of what is humanly possible. It often requires making decisions in complex or ambiguous environments, understanding cultural nuances and adapting one’s style accordingly.”

Global Leadership Best PracticesThe study found six competencies required for global leadership success:

  1. Adapting Socially: the ability to socialize comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations and to demonstrate genuine interest in other people.
  2. Demonstrating Creativity: the ability to enjoy new challenges, strive for innovative solutions to social and situational issues, and learn from a variety of sources.
  3. Even Disposition: the ability to remain calm, not be critical of self, and learn from mistakes.
  4. Respecting Beliefs: the ability to demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people in other cultures, and the ability to use appropriate humor to diffuse tense situations.
  5. Instilling Trust: the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships. According to the report, trust is the one glue that holds diverse teams together.
  6. Navigating Ambiguity: the ability to work through vagueness and uncertainty, without becoming frustrated, and figure out how things are done in other cultures. Ambiguous situations are the norm in leading across cultures.

“Human Age leaders have the responsibility and opportunity to unleash the potential of all employees who work for them. To effectively unleash this passion and accelerate business success, leaders need new and different skills—managing diverse talent.”

The white paper concludes with four strategies for selecting, developing and retaining leaders who will succeed in a global business environment. An ongoing, structured learning experience such as Cultural Detective Online not only supports, but makes possible, each of the four:

  1. Select Overseas Managers includes assessment processes such as Tucker’s, and developmental tools such as Cultural Detective, used by a competent administrator/facilitator.
  2. Grow International Leadership Bench Strength includes developing and nurturing leaders as well as providing coaching—each of which are greatly aided by the Cultural Detective toolset.
  3. Ensure Success of Leaders in New International Roles includes assigning a coach and meeting for regular reviews, both of which can be significantly enhanced with a subscription to Cultural Detective Online.
  4. Localize Country Management Teams includes the creation of customized leader plans and coaching support. Again, you know what toolset is perfect for this!

This is an excellent report, which I recommend you review in its entirety. We appreciate Tucker International and Right Management making it available. I suspect we can all learn something from this reminder of what it takes to be a competent global leader.

Ochobo’s “Liberation Wrapper”

liberation-wrapper-415x260What a terrific, culturally appropriate marketing ploy! When I lived in Japan, I was oh-so-conscious to cover my mouth with my hand when I laughed out loud, or if I had to open it real wide while eating. “Ochobo,” or a small mouth, is traditionally seen as a sign of feminine beauty in Japan.

A national hamburger chain wanted to sell more of its biggest, juiciest, wide-mouthed burgers to women, so it came up with an ingenious idea: the “liberation wrapper”—a stiff paper burger wrapper, imprinted with a closed mouth. The person eating is able to hide behind a dainty little face, saving others from having to watch them chow down.
Every society is changing, and there are plenty of women in Japan who eat burgers in public. There are also those who don’t cover their mouths when laughing. But, hey, this is fun and cool! Maybe next will come a not-so-culturally-necessary but cool men’s “liberation wrapper”!

Here’s an article on the promotion, from the Japan Daily Press.

This promotion reminds me of a story years ago, recounted to me by the then-Director of Tokyo Disneyland. In planning for Adults’ Day (成人の日), the workers realized that many young women would be coming to Disneyland in silk kimono. Knowing that the water spray could damage the expensive kimono, the workers prepared signs, warning the young women of the danger and cautioning them to avoid certain water rides.

The Director scolded them, saying their signs ran counter to the Disney way. “You must figure out a way to let the young women enjoy the rides, in their expensive silk kimono.” The solution? They had a bunch of plastic raincoats made special for Adults’ Day.

What is your favorite culturally appropriate customer service or marketing story?

Use of a typical Indian metaphor by Devdatt Pattnaik to speak of culture: Kolam

tumblr_lk8iuxl2vK1qa2x4yo1_500This guest post is written by , cross cultural consultant and trainer. Remember, don’t think “chaos;” think “pattern!”

Often times in my intercultural trainings to Indian audiences, I have sensed a discomfort in my participants with using models (the iceberg of culture, for example) and imagery that are often more easily understood by Westerners. Perhaps, I am more sensitive to this discomfort because I felt the same when I learned not only one but two foreign languages (English and French), with their intrinsic imagery that was so far removed from my local reality.

You can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Devdutt Pattnaik’s use of a typical Indian custom of drawing kolams (rangoli in North India) to explain the Indian world view. Used to adorn the floor at the entrance of even the most humble abode in India, it is basically a pattern that is drawn, using lines to connect a grid of dots. There is nothing rigid about how the dots need to be connected—each person chooses to connect the dots as s/he desires, and each pattern is a legitimate one, just as is each culture.

Below you can watch his thought provoking presentation on India. I particularly love his closing lines. Enjoy! What are your favorite local metaphors and imagery that resonate with the local contexts you work in?

New Study on How the Language We Speak Affects Us

“The structure of languages affects our judgments and decisions about the future, and this might have dramatic long-term consequences.”

On October 1st I read an interesting article in Scientific American, entitled, “How Your Language Affects Your Wealth and Health.” Dr. Keith Chen, of Yale Business School, had conducted a study analyzing individual-level data — economic decisions, retirement assets, smoking and exercising habits, and general health in older age — from 76 developed and developing countries. He also analyzed national savings rates, country GDP and GDP growth rates. Premised on the fact that some languages have explicit future markers while others have more ambiguous markers between present and future, Dr. Chen correlated the economic and health data with language structure, with striking results. “Speaking a language that has obligatory future markers, such as English, makes people 30 percent less likely to save money for the future,” according to Scientific American.

I shared the article on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and today I came across a terrific little video that summarizes the study’s findings. Good visuals nearly always help me make sense of information; it’s why I made this video, summarizing a different cross-cultural study, earlier this year. I bet you’ll find the movie below helpful as well:

The original study is entitled, “The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets,” written by M. Keith Chen, Yale University, School of Management and Cowles Foundation, April, 2013
Published in the American Economic Review 2013, 103(2): 690-731
Editor’s choice, Science Magazine, Vol 339(4)
Permanent address: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.2.690http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/papers/LanguageWorkingPaper.pdf

Remember, Cultural Detective is a leading-edge process not only for understanding values and behavioral differences across cultures, but for navigating them successfully.

World Epidemic of Domestic Violence & India’s “Abused Goddesses”

Durga: domestic violence goddess

The Hindu goddess Durga in an ad to end domestic violence in India

According to the World Health Organization, violence against women is a worldwide epidemic. Findings from the first extensive research of its kind, published in August 2013 and conducted by the World Health Organization, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the South African Medical Research Council, show that 35% of women worldwide experience either domestic or sexual violence! Globally, as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. And this, despite a 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This unacceptable reality is not limited to any one region of the world, as you can see in the map below.

Domestic violence by world region

From the report, “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women,” World Health Organization, London School of Hygience & Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council.

Both men and women are victims of domestic violence, though worldwide statistics show that four-out-of-five victims are women. I know this epidemic first-hand: domestic violence knows no boundaries of ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or education. While physical abuse is against the law in the USA, thankfully for us, mental abuse is not and can be far, far worse.

Save Our Sisters, an initiative of the NGO Save the Children India, recently returned to my attention when they released a dramatic series of ads designed to stem the tide of domestic violence. The ads show three bruised and battered Hindu goddesses (Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi), along with important statistics—68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence—and a helpline number. The campaign, blending hand painting in the traditional style with photography, was created by the Mumbai-based advertising agency Taproot, and it has already won several awards. You can see the three ads in the slideshow below, along with another closeup.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Recent reports show that one Indian woman is killed every hour just in dowry-related crimes! Most people that I have spoken to in India find the “abused goddess” campaign highly effective: it grabs one’s attention, it is culturally appropriate, and it seems to be raising awareness and reporting. In sharing the campaign on social media, however, I especially found one response (from Darshana Davé—who has given me permission to use her name and asked that we link to her email) insightful:

“It’s a good, effective campaign, but why must it be that only goddesses, mothers, sisters and daughters be treated well? Why can’t Indian men treat all women with respect? Those questions remain unanswered… A powerful campaign, but it also is guilty of perpetuating the goddess versus whore stereotype, where the woman is either a goddess, sister, mother or daughter, who should not be abused, or if not those, a whore, who can be abused.”

Darshana also shared this provocative (though challenging to wade through) article, entitled, “No more goddesses, please. Bring in the sluts,” which I feel makes some valid points—and I do love the title.

What do you think? Have you seen culturally appropriate campaigns to eliminate violence against women where you are? If so, please share!

Violence against women is both a major world health issue and a human rights problem, as indicated in the diagram below, from the same WHO report.

Health effects of domestic violence

From the report, “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women,” World Health Organization, London School of Hygience & Tropical Medicine, South African Medical Research Council.

In Mexico, where I live, we suffer an epidemic of “lost women,” women who just disappear one day, never to be seen again, victims of sexual violence and murder. Violence against women is a systemic problem, a societal and cultural problem. We need to stand up, to speak up, each of us, in our families, with our friends, neighbors and colleagues. We need to use our cross-cultural skills to help people realize, in ways that make sense to them, that violence is never appropriate.

“There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”

—United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon (2008)

Today as this blog post was published, I happened upon this particularly powerful and discouraging article from the Harvard Gazette. If this topic interests you, be sure to read it and let me know what you think.

Also, do not miss this just-released UNDP study on preventing violence against women in the Asia-Pacific region.

Burka-Clad Super Hero Fights for Girls’ Rights!


ba-cover
This week saw the television launch of an exciting new female superhero, direct from Islamabad, Pakistan: The Burka Avenger!

The star of the animated series of thirteen, 22-minute episodes is a teacher who uses books and pens to fight the evil people who shut down schools and prevent girls from getting an education. The humorous show also teaches kids to protect the environment, and, good news for the Cultural Detective community, to respect diversity and include others.

Each episode features an original song and guest appearances by some of the biggest musical acts in South Asia, including Ali Zafar, Haroon, Ali Azmat, Adil Omar, and Josh. Goals include entertainment and positive messages to youth. The series’ trailer (in English) is below.


The Burka Avenger is the brainchild of Aaron Haroon Rashid, a Pakistan pop star who wanted to create a positive role model to counter the Taliban’s ongoing opposition to girls’ education. In explaining the choice of the burka, which the teacher, Jiya, only wears in superhero mode, Rashid explained, “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes. Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”

Of course this may well remind us of the indomitable Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban   famously attempted to assassinate last October. On her 16th birthday this past July 12, the amazingly poised and well-spoken Malala delivered the first-ever education policy recommendations written for youth, by youth, to the United Nations (video below). July 12th has now been named Malala Day in her honor.


It is not just Pakistan where girls’ rights to education are in danger. Fortunately, the people at Mighty Girl Books have assembled a terrific list of books for children and teens that explore the challenge of girls’ access to education, worldwide and throughout history.

You may also remember the comic book series “The 99,” in which superheroes inspired by Islam (they are named after the 99 attributes of Allah) fight crime, smash stereotypes and battle extremism. Series creator Naif Al-Mutawa gave a talk at TED Global 2010. A video of his talk is below, and a free online issue is also available.