So Proud of Our Customer!

MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_DMicrosoft India has been a Cultural Detective customer for six years, and both Heather Robinson and I are so very proud of the abilities their staff members have developed to in turn coach and develop their support engineers’ customer service skills. The entire project has been amazing—truly a privilege to be a part of it! I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of their “Cultural Effective” story with you.

Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their large enterprise customer support representatives. In the first six months using the tool, they told us they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction to Cultural Detective! Now, five years later, they know Cultural Detective inside and out, and use the CD Method when interacting with both international and domestic customers.

In March of this year Heather again traveled to Bangalore to work with the trainers, to help improve their abilities to coach using Cultural Detective. The approach she used is what we call EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence. It is a combination of Cultural Detective, with which Microsoft has been working for five years, and Personal Leadership, which their staff have been working with for the past year or so.

The design was an inspired one. Because Microsoft has experienced facilitators who are also well-versed in Cultural Detective, Heather used these facilitators to get team newcomers up to speed, as well as to facilitate small group breakout sessions. This internal group of facilitators put together the readings, sample interviews and assignments for the three-day training. As is so wonderful when training in India, there were plenty of games, activities and laughter.

As you might imagine, one of the main challenges for the support engineers is knowing how to respond to customers’ emotions. Large enterprises rely on Microsoft products to function in highly customized ways, which often means long days of problem-solving discussions, heightened emotions and frayed nerves. The March training included the learners acting out skits of engineer-customer interactions, videotaping them, and then using the Cultural Detective Worksheet to debrief the contrasting values, and the EPIC approach to discern how to respond most appropriately. We would love to share one or two of those videos with you here, but, of course, they are proprietary.

Instead, let me leave you with a few of the notes scribed in small groups. In case you’re wondering why “Kit Kats” and “Milky Ways,” the participants chose a candy bar and then broke into groups, one of ten techniques you can find in this blog post.

If you or your organization would like to be profiled in an upcoming blog post, we would be happy to talk with you about making that happen. Just let us know. Congratulations to all the Microsoft staff, who are so committed to building intercultural competence in their organization, and to you, the Cultural Detective community, for your efforts on this same journey.

The Mexican Crafts Artist, Pedro Ramirez

A guest blog post by Rossana Miranda Johnston, Tatyana Fertelmeyster and Carrie Cameron

During our recent Cultural Detective Tenth Anniversary meetings and celebrations in Mazatlán, Mexico, some of those attending used a free hour in the program to walk out into the community to conduct short ethnographic studies—to practice their detective skills. Below is a summary of what interested one group. Click here for a link to the instructions for this activity; you are most welcome to adapt them for your own purposes!

Just think how frequently we travel to very different places for work, and how often we don’t take the time to interact with the local people in ways that help us get to know them as people. The same can be said for the beautiful places we travel as tourists. Let’s make a point of practicing our Cultural Detective skills wherever we are, building cross-cultural respect, understanding, and friendship!

TF, CC, RMJ 1 With no specific destination in mind, our group wandered down the street and away from the hotel. Trying to avoid the “tourist traps,” we were delighted to visit a local Mexican crafts store, thanks to the discerning eyes of the Mexican member of our group.

The store featured many types of handmade crafts, most of them displayed by the artist who was on-site working on his/her wares while waiting for a sale. Among the several craftspeople working, we found the artist in the photo, Pedro Ramirez—in a corner of the shop working on a new creation. We watched him as he worked and struck up a conversation.

He told us, “Each piece takes several hours to a few days to be made. It depends on how complex or elaborate they are; each piece is unique.” Over the years, Pedro told us, he had tried making different items, but they didn’t always sell. Now he only makes crosses because they are popular and generally sell any time of the year. Perhaps this reflects the Mexican reverence for the Roman Catholic Church? Many tourists are probably Christian, and crosses are an easily transportable souvenir or gift item. TF, CC, RMJ 2

Pedro has been experimenting with different materials and hardware for the crosses, from old doors to windows and tables. Using mainly recycled materials has a few advantages. For one, raw materials are free—it does, however, take creativity and imagination to see what can be done with what others see as scrap or trash. In addition, using recycled materials appeals to tourists who appreciate seeing materials being reused in the form of art. For some, we surmise, this adds to the attraction and appeal of his crosses.

Pedro was warm, cordial and circular in his verbal description, demonstrating a common tendency in conversation in Mexico—Cantinflísmo (Affable circular communication) as he chatted with us. Our small group did have the advantage of a native Spanish speaker and another member who is fairly fluent. This allowed us to communicate easily and help put Pedro at ease. Once he understood our purpose, he talked more freely with us. He is proud of his work, dignified in his self-presentation, and seemed to exude a sense of Sentirse agusto (feeling good about someone or something). It seemed he was comfortable sharing information because he understood we respected his work and were genuinely interested. Our interaction with him was very pleasant, reflecting a low key effort to Caer bién—to be liked or to like others, being or finding someone pleasant—and it is an integral part of Sentirse agusto.

Meeting and talking with Pedro offered us a small glimpse into the life of an artist dependent on the tourist trade. He offered a good example of the creativity we saw in crafts and art in Mazatlan. Mr. Ramirez’ art and livelihood intertwines two salient Mexican cultural themes impacting personal economics: applying innovation/creativity to traditional religious symbols in order to create vibrant new decorative art pieces. We only wish we had more time to explore and enjoy the visual feast of goods in vibrant colors and rich textures we saw in the shops and among street vendors. Hasta la próxima, or “until next time!”

A Streetscape in Mazatlán

A guest blog post by Carrie Cameron

During our recent Cultural Detective Tenth Anniversary meetings and celebrations in Mazatlán, Mexico, some of those attending used a free hour in the program to walk out into the community to conduct short ethnographic studies—to practice their detective skills. Below is a summary of what interested one group.

Click here for a link to the instructions for this activity; you are most welcome to adapt them for your own purposes! Just think how frequently we travel to very different places for work, and how often we don’t take the time to interact with the local people in ways that help us get to know them as people. The same can be said for the beautiful places we travel as tourists. Let’s make a point of practicing our Cultural Detective skills wherever we are, building cross-cultural respect, understanding, and friendship!

image002The two portals of this private building reflect traces of a couple of Mexican values, and provide a thought-provoking contrast. Located in the Centro Histórico district of Mazatlán, these differing window images on the same building grabbed my attention due to their stark contrast and my reaction to them.

In the eyes of many US Americans, the window on the right has an ornamental grate that is “obviously” there for self-protection. This may be due to the prevailing norm in most historically Anglo communities in the US, where the point is to organize the exteriors of houses, and the land surrounding them, for maximum street appeal—to look nice to the public. With this cultural lens, the iron grating over the window appears forbidding, almost like a jail gate.

Looking inside this window through the bars, however, one sees a lovely interior courtyard. With a different cultural lens, one can appreciate that the beauty is saved for the inhabitants inside rather than displayed outside for the passers-by. This tradition is, of course, very ancient and not specific to Mexico, but is alive and very visible in the Mexican environment. Earlier in the day, we had been on the top of a hotel looking down into the Centro Histórico, and were able to see many other lovely “hidden” gardens surrounded by buildings and/or walls.

In the photo above, the window space on the left, which has been plastered over, has a graffiti-style painting of a whimsical robot-like character, full of bright colors, dynamic angles, and high energy. These sudden and unexpected bursts of playful creativity, color, and often-humorous social commentary, seem to appear frequently on the Mazatlán streetscape.

The Mexican sense of design, decoration, ornamentation, adornment, and use of color and music appear to be a prevalent part of everyday life, even in the poorest neighborhoods or circumstances. On another level, such whimsical images as the one in the graffiti above often convey biting social commentary in an apparently lighthearted and ironic way. Other examples of this are the Día de los Muertos images and figurines, with charmingly dressed skeletons wearing flowered hats, jewelry, dancing shoes, etc.

Investigating Cultural Detective Mexico core values using this image provides many possibilities. The value of Tradición (Tradition) is evidenced in both the old window and the new graffiti. The stability and sense of history provided by the old window is a subtle reminder that the past had value, and remains as the base upon which to build—even to build expression of an artistic nature!

The bright colors of the graffiti echo the traditional colors of clothing, weaving, and handicrafts by many of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. So, in a sense, this newer form of artistic expression has a connection with the past, also.

Another core Mexican value reflected in the photo is that of Posición social (Social position). Peeking through the grate on the window into the garden, one can only imagine its original splendor. The family who built the home had to be of some means, and the house reflects their social position. And now, a street artist has seen the plastered-over window as a canvas on which to display his/her work, a statement of her/his position in society as an artist.

Of course, an interior garden may add to one’s ability to Sentirse agusto (feel good about someone or something) by providing a serene setting in contrast to the outside world. And dare we imagine that the artist also felt good about his/her creation—had a sense of Sentirse agusto upon completion of the work?

Film Review: Emperor

MV5BMjI4OTcwMTY3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTI1MzcxOQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_Our family watched a movie the other night that we all thoroughly enjoyed, and it as such an excellent cross-cultural film!

Emperor tells the supposedly true story of the USA’s decisions about whether or not to try (and hang) Emperor Hirohito after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. Since I have always referenced the post-war reconstruction of Japan as “best practice” in ending a war, restoring a nation, and building an alliance (a lay person’s opinion, as politics and the military are in no way my specialties), I found this film particularly enlightening. It is a joint US-Japan production.

Emperor was released in the USA in 2012 and in Japan in 2013, but somehow just made it to my attention here in Mexico. Thank goodness it did! It stars Matthew Fox as Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, a Japan expert, and Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers), along with a host of Japanese actors.

The film captures the emotional torment
of a person attempting to bridge two cultures:
how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with
both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself,
and yet do the right thing?

Though there are quite a few Hollywood clichés, I absolutely loved the insight into Japanese culture that Fellers demonstrates in the movie—it’s a great example of practical application of culture-specific knowledge. The film captures very well the emotional torment of a person attempting to bridge two cultures, particularly in such a sensitive situation: how could he be truthful, gain and maintain credibility with both Japanese and US Americans, remain true to himself, and yet do the right thing? The movie shows some  of the post-war devastation of Japan, the dignity of its people, and the wisdom that, fortunately, prevailed.

I believe there is much to learn here, and I hope our US military will use this film as required viewing as part of its officer training. I so often talk about the need for expats to “manage up” rather than just “manage down,” and Emperor is a terrific case study of how one general did just that.

The movie also includes a bit of love story, as Fellers tries to rekindle his relationship with Aya, a foreign exchange student he originally met at Earlham College in Indiana. Emperor is based on Shiro Okamoto’s book, His Majesty’s Salvation.

It is interesting that the movie never points out that Fellers was a Quaker, something about his background that I imagine was key to his decision making and his style, or that he was the official liaison with the Imperial Household. It is also encouraging that even with so little knowledge of the culture, he was able to do so much good. That is assuming, of course, that the movie is in any way accurate.

 

SPOILER ALERT
My one complaint about the movie is that the closing credits note that Fellers was “demoted” from being a general. This, to me, is a classic misuse of a true statement. The filmmakers should either have added an explanation or omitted this statement entirely. Sharing it in its brevity misleads and implies negativity.

The fact is that after World War II the military reduced the ranks, cutting the titles of 212 generals, because it was no longer wartime and the military no longer had a need for so many generals. Fellers reverted to colonel, but retired with the brigadier general title.

 

Recent Upgrades to Cultural Detective Online Enable Even Better Collaboration

QuickViewLensesOur most recent update incorporates significant changes to the user incident sections and the group functionality, in direct response to feedback from CDO users, so please keep those ideas coming! At Cultural Detective, we are always working to improve our flagship product, Cultural Detective Online.

conference_calling_support_headerQuick View Lenses: A New Tab On The Main Menu Bar
Maybe you are in a meeting, and you can just feel you are not quite connecting with the person sitting across from you, or the people on the other end of the conference call. Now you can quickly and easily open any of the Cultural Detective Values Lenses to use as clues in deciphering the dynamics of your conversation, and to help you bridge the communication gap!

The new Quick View Lenses tab is visible anytime you are logged into CD Online, located just to the right of the Package tab. Clicking on this tab will open a new browser window with a drop-down menu listing all Lenses in the CD Online system. Clicking on a Lens name will open that Values Lens in the new browser window.

Group Functionality: New Features
The real magic of cross-cultural collaboration is in using our differences as assets to innovate, create and solve problems—together.

You already know you can subscribe to Cultural Detective Online either as an individual user or as a group. A group may be a team that works together on a project, or a class of students. The group leader may be the team leader or the class instructor.

Collaborative Incidents and Debriefs
Group members have the option of sharing a critical incident they upload with the members of their group with one easy step. The Group Administrator will receive an email requesting approval of the incident for group-wide publication. After publication to the group, the incident creator’s name will be listed as having authored the incident.

A group member now is able to invite other group members to collaborate on an incident. This is a terrific new feature! Let’s say I’m working together with Ana on a project. I upload a story about my collaboration with Ana. She is now able to edit my incident draft, making sure it’s also accurate from her perspective. Then, together, we can debrief what happened: she gives me insight into her intentions, and I let her know what I was intending. Together, we enter interpersonal bridges—what each of us can do to reach out to the other while contributing our personal best, and systemic bridges—what our organization can do to support our efforts and encourage our intercultural success.

Group members can also create a Sample Debrief to aid other group members. The Sample Debrief will appear just like a Sample Debrief written by an author. Collaborators on an incident may also contribute to its debrief. We strongly recommend that group members create a Sample Debrief for each shared incident to aid fellow group members in their learning.

Our recent upgrade included MANY other great additions to the CD Online system. For just US$99/year, or US$150/two years, your individual subscription gives you access to the 60+ packages in our system, and permission to project its contents to your classes, trainees, or coaching clients. I can’t imagine where you can get better value for your investment!

Please join our 130 authors in putting this incredibly robust tool to good use, to build respect, understanding, inclusion and teamwork in your arenas of influence. Want to learn more about what Cultural Detective Online can do for you and your organization? Join us for our next free 90-minute webinar—click here to view the full schedule through the next few months.

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!

Cultural Detective as a Facilitator’s Magic Tool

IMG_6335Guest blog post by Tatyana Fertelmeyster, co-author of Cultural Detective Russia,
connecting.differences@gmail.com

First of all a disclaimer: I have a long-lasting love affair with Cultural Detective and see it as the favorite tool in my toolbox, good for almost anything where training or coaching is concerned. It does not mean that I try to squeeze it into every design or set of handouts I do, but it is a go-to resource. In this short post I’d like to invite you to consider the Cultural Detective Model as a very powerful mechanism for effective facilitation of any process (training, meeting, academic classroom learning, etc.) that you might be facilitating.

Let’s say you come in all ready and prepared to teach, but for some reason the group is just not following you, no matter where you are trying to lead them. Observe. Observe the group and observe yourself: who is doing and saying what here? Ask yourself my favorite question: assuming they have a reason to respond to my efforts in that strange way—what might that be? Take your next step in accordance with your analysis and not in accordance with your initial brilliant plan that just flew out the window (assuming it had a good reason to fly out the window—what might that be?)

Say you’ve got yourself a difficult participant (you know the kind I am talking about, though yours might look nothing like mine). Take a deep breath and ask yourself: assuming this person’s behavior comes from some place of value, what might that be? To get really good at it, practice on significant others. If you master doing it with teenagers, the whole world will be yours for the taking.

I owe one of my best co-facilitation experiences to Cultural Detective as well. A few years ago Kate Berardo (CD Self-Discovery and CD Bridging Cultures) and I were teaching a class at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) together. It was our first collaboration. As we started preparing for the class we talked about ourselves using the structure of the CD Value Lens: this is what I bring to this project, this is how it can be instrumental, and this is how I can be a pain in the neck for somebody who operates differently. I don’t know too many people whose style as is different from mine as Kate’s is. It could’ve been a huge disaster. Instead we were able to really combine our strengths, which is such a wonderful alternative to drowning in frustration over “how come you are not like me?”

If you want to strengthen your skills as a facilitator, come join me this July in Portland, OR at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication. I will be teaching three workshops incorporating Cultural Detective in various ways:

I hope to see you there!

A Design for Incorporating Cross-cultural Effectiveness into Existing Programs

arton235-88ad2Do you have an existing curriculum or training design and wish you could simply add a cross-cultural element to it? You probably don’t realize how easy and affordable it is to keep your existing objectives and design, while weaving in key cross-cultural dynamics using Cultural Detective. Below is a half-day design using Cultural Detective that works well in a variety of contexts with a variety of topics:

  • In business for global management, leadership across cultures, multicultural or international customer service, multicultural team effectiveness, negotiating across cultures, management and motivation, new hire orientation, expatriation (prior to departure, during the assignment, reentry).
  • In study abroad for students during orientation, their sojourn and reentry; orientations for host families; teamwork and community-building for students, receiving organizations, and host families.
  • For special purposes such as patient-care across cultures, multicultural spiritual communities, and neighborhood community building.

A Sample Half-Day Training Design Leveraging the Cultural Detective® Method

1. Objectives, introductions, agenda (of your chosen topic).

2. “What’s in it for me?” Present your topic in context; why is it important?

3. Skills for [workshop topic, e.g., leadership, teamwork, healthcare, sales, etc.] Across Cultures:

  • Tell a story or show a video of cross-cultural interaction in the context of the [workshop topic]. The playlists and videos on Cultural Detective‘s YouTube channel may give you some ideas.
  • Lead the participants through an analysis of the story (debrief) using the Cultural Detective Worksheet.
  • Once complete, ask participants what they learn from this approach (values, beliefs and “common sense” world view motivate behavior; world views are often different but all are “correct”; similar values can lead to different behavior; different values can motivate similar behavior; bridges must leverage similarities and shared objectives as well as differences/complementarities; bridges must be interpersonal and multidirectional but also organizational/systemic)
  • Summarize: What skills for [workshop topic] can we learn from this Cultural Detective (CD) approach?
  • Apply: How can participants use this CD approach in their daily work?

4. Culture-specific Skills for [workshop topic]

  • Introduce Values Lenses: what they are and aren’t; explain values and negative perceptions.
  • Introduce the Values Lens for each of the cultures in the story you told or the video clip you showed.
  • Ask participants if these values provide them further insight or deeper understanding of the incident. Do the Lenses provide any clues to help them add information to the CD Worksheet debrief? If not, fine. If yes, use that info.
  • Summarize: What skills for [workshop topic] can we learn by using Values Lenses? How can we use the Lens tools well? How should we never use the Lenses? (Lenses are guides to societal norms, and should never be used to stereotype or “box-in” individuals, but rather as clues for learning and dialogue.)
  • Apply: How could participants use Values Lenses in their daily work?

5. Knowing Oneself as a Cultural Being in the Context of [workshop topic]

  • Use a couple of the activities from Cultural Detective Self Discovery and guide participants to complete a Personal Values Lens
  • In pairs or threes, have participants share their Personal Lenses with one another
  • Have them discuss how they could best work together in the context of [workshop topic], to bring out the best in one another.
  • Summarize: What are some best practices for cross-cultural [workshop topic]? What have you learned?
  • Provide the Cultural Detective’s “A Dozen Best Practices for Cross-Cultural Effectiveness.”
  • Apply: What will you do to ensure you perform at your best in a cross-cultural [workshop topic] situation? To ensure you bring out the best in your team/clients/patients?

6. Summary and Application

  • Provide a list of skills for effective cross-cultural [workshop topic].
  • Ask participants what they have learned about themselves today as regards [workshop topic]?
  • What are the top 1-3 skills each participant wants to demonstrate to enhance their cross-cultural effectiveness at [workshop topic]?
  • How will they hold themselves accountable?

What cost does this add to your curriculum? If you are training 30 or more people, Cultural Detective Self Discovery licenses are just US$15 per participant. For Values Lenses, you can subscribe to Cultural Detective Online for less than $100 per year and project Lenses in a group training environment. The subscription price goes down for multiple users, to less than $30 per year per subscriber.

We hope you find this sample design useful, and that you will share with us your tried-and-true designs and curricula for integrating Cultural Detective into educational or training programs. We know you do terrific work, in such a broad variety of contexts, and your designs will no doubt stimulate others’ creativity and effectiveness. Together we can build a more equitable, just, respectful world in which we collaborate for a sustainable future!

Transforming Lives: Education as an Alternative to Violence

AUN “The youth in Nigeria are beginning to speak—some with violence.
They attract attention. But others are also speaking.
The question is, is anyone listening to this plea
for western education, for training, for reform, for help?”

—Margee Ensign, President, American University of Nigeria

With all the grim news coming out of Nigeria these days, I thought you might want to hear about a little-known educational bright spot in the country: the unique programs offered at the American University of Nigeria, founded in Yola (capital of Adamwa state) in 2005 by the country’s former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar.

Despite Boko Haram’s year-long campaign of terror, including kidnapping over 300 girls from a school, murdering family members, burning villages, and displacing thousands of people, most families still desire an education for their girls and their boys, says Margee Ensign, President of AUN. And AUN provides it.

Both the university’s valedictorian and its graduating class speaker this year are women. The university is one of the leaders in the interfaith peace initiative. It has hired and trained more than 500 female and male security guards to protect the campus and its housing, offering each of them a free education. AUN facilities include a nursery school, primary and secondary school, in addition to the university itself. It recently dedicated a new library that has received international accolades for its efforts to create the finest e-library in Africa.

“Security comes not from our security force, but from our development and peace efforts,” Margee reports. In one of the poorest places on earth, AUN has a program to teach local women literacy and entrepreneurship skills, to enable them to generate income for their families. The university’s Peace Council has created 32 football and volleyball “unity teams” for young people to play in tournaments year-round. None of the young people have jobs, over half have dropped out of high school, and 10% have not even completed elementary school. Sports team members study a peace curriculum focused on building understanding and tolerance. The unity teams help ensure that these youth stay active and involved in their communities—making them less vulnerable to recruiting by terrorist groups like Boko Haram.

This kind of creative programming doesn’t happen by accident. Margee is a tough, dedicated, innovative, and tireless educator. Her extensive experience in administrative and faculty positions in universities in the USA (including Columbia University in New York, Tulane University in New Orleans, and the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California), and her interest and experience in international development in Africa, make her well-prepared to be president of AUN.

“I met with about 80 women in the [AUN entrepreneurship] program…They wanted to learn English, Nigeria’s official language, so that they could read to their children. In modern education, they knew, lay the only hope for the future.”

Margee relishes the challenges of working across cultures. She has embraced the local community culture, while building a university culture that retains important aspects of the US educational experience. After all, this is why parents are sending their children to college at AUN. She’s always recruiting—looking for people with just the right skills, willing to give their time and talent to join the international faculty and staff at AUN, a growing academic community in Nigeria.

The Cultural Detective Team believes it is possible to help make the world a better place through our actions. Yet, it isn’t always easy! Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork investigates some of the challenges involved in managing culturally diverse teams in today’s global environment, even if working in the same geographical location. What is the task? How do we form and maintain a high performing team? How do we manage the terrain or contexts in which team members work? How do we choose the right technology to support the team? How do time and space affect communication? Add culture to this mix, and it is even more complex! These are just the beginning of the challenges Margee faces each day—and she loves it!

All around the globe, dedicated, competent people are working to make a corner of the world a better place—often, not the corner of the world in which they were born and raised. Yet, they are motivated to share their skills in multiple arenas and diverse geographical locations. You probably know people that match this description—or are you one?! We’d be delighted to share their stories or yours with our readers!

With all the doom and gloom in the news, it is good to remind ourselves that generous people are doing wonderful things in difficult circumstances. A recent article written by Margee and published on the BBC.com website offers an often overlooked perspective on the area better known for the rampages of Boko Haram. We invite you to read Margee’s entire article here: “Nigerians defy terror to keep learning.”

Ecotonos: Simulación Intercultural en una Clase de Negociación en Colombia

Sixth semester students (juniors) David, Lina, Gabriela and Ximena helped facilitate the simulation

Sixth semester students (juniors) David, Lina, Gabriela y Ximena helped facilitate the simulation

Ecotonos: An Intercultural Simulation in a Negotiation Class in Colombia

La Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá, Colombia, recently utilized Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures for the third time in its International Negotiation class. The professor, Fernando Parrado, gave four of his experienced students the opportunity to act as co-facilitators, and they learned so much from the experience. Below is their report.

Translation to English by Dianne Hofner Saphiere follows the Spanish original.

AGUILAS

Las Águilas estaban conformadas por un grupo total de diez estudiantes, por lo que en primera estancia se repartieron las fichas de valores a cada uno de los integrantes. Los valores e acciones de las Águilas eran:

  • Tú crees que es grosero expresar tu propia opinión demasiado fuerte. Tú prefieres preguntar la opinión de los otros antes de afirmar la tuya y frecuentemente ilustras con ejemplos los puntos que los demás han dado.
  • Cuando una persona te dice algo que tú has escuchado antes, tú aplaudes. Miras sobre la cabeza de las personas cuando deseas demostrarles que estas en desacuerdo.
  • Para entender completamente que está diciendo alguien, tú interrumpes, aclaras y resumes.
  • Tú crees que todo se mueve a su propio ritmo y que el tiempo es artificial. No te das prisa con las decisiones o tareas sino que prefieres que esta se desenvuelva. Los relojes o tiempos de referencia te hacen sentir incómodo.
  • En discusiones tu estas más cómodo parado o sentado al menos a un brazo de distancia de las otras personas. El contacto físico es extremadamente incómodo para ti.

Después de entendidos y discutidos los comportamientos a seguir por las Águilas, se realiza la creación del mito por parte de todo el grupo. Los miembros fueron muy creativos y relacionaron los valores con el nombre del grupo (las Águilas), determinando así que se habían independizado hace poco tiempo, y que además su Dios era el águila, lo que determinaba su necesidad de espacio, no contacto físico, y comportamiento sumiso ante la opinión de los demás.

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Posteriormente se inició la construcción de los puentes. Los miembros decidieron recurrir a otros recursos, además de los ya otorgados por los facilitadores, como sus sacos.

Luego se realizó la mezcla de los participantes. Las Águilas fueron determinadas a ser un Joint Venture, por lo que cinco participantes del grupo de los Zantes se unieron a las Águilas, de la misma manera que cinco integrantes se fueron a los Delfines y a los Zantes. Dado así el grupo quedo conformado por cinco Águilas y cinco Zantes. La cultura de los Zantes era absolutamente opuesta por lo que la continuación del puente fue un reto, mas sin embargo a pesar de las diferencias, todos participaron activamente y sacaron adelante el proyecto.

A continuación se realizó la presentación del mito por parte de uno de los participantes, y luego se realizó la retroalimentación de la cual el grupo tuvo las siguientes conclusiones:

Los elementos que ayudaron tener mayor efectividad y colaboración entre las dos culturas:

  • Ambas culturas saben escuchar.
  • Ambas culturas trabajan en grupo con un fin común.
  • A pesar de la diferencia cultural, había tolerancia lo que no genero conflictos, por lo que el trabajo en equipo fue flexible.

Los elementos que impidieron tener mayor efectividad y colaboración entre las dos culturas:

  • La cultura de las Águilas era muy flexible al tiempo, por lo cual el tiempo no fue aprovechado de manera efectiva. “El tiempo vale oro”.
  • La diferencia y falta de conocimiento del lenguaje verbal y corporal de cada una de las otras culturas
  • La diferencia en la afectividad y contacto físico por parte de cada una de las culturas

Las Águilas plantearon tres estrategias que hubieran ayudado a los grupos a entenderse mejor y utilizar las habilidades de cada uno de los miembros fueron:

  • Tener un contacto previo con la otra cultura, para entender y comprender los diferentes comportamientos.
  • Reemplazar el lenguaje corporal por lenguaje verbal, para lograr un mayor entendimiento.
  • Tener clara la tarea a realizar para poder planificar y realizar de manera correcta.
  • Implementar la división del trabajo.

Por último el grupo realizo el siguiente mapa de procesos para evidenciar el proceso vivido.

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DELFINES

La personalidad de los Delfines los describe como una cultura apartada que no les gusta tener contacto con otras culturas, aparte de esto siempre quieren tener siempre la razón motivo por el cual cuando van a comunicarse con otros es más difícil llegar a un acuerdo, en el trabajo se evidencio cuando hubo cambios de culturas que era complicado llegar a aportar algo a esta cultura.

Los Delfines estaban armando su puente, todos los integrantes tenían un cargo y así fueron armando su puente, todos se entendían bien y cuando no estaban de acuerdo lo hablaban y rápidamente llegaban a un acuerdo para beneficiarse todos, entre la cultura nunca hubo un problema o discusiones por las decisiones tomadas.

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Cuando las dos Águilas intervinieron este grupo para continuar armando el puente pero como había mayoría de Delfines se evidencio que las Águilas quedaron de lado discriminadas, ya que los Delfines no les gusta tener interacción con otras culturas, es claro que cuando hay una mayoría vs minoría siempre la mayoría va a tomar las decisiones y la minoría va a tener que adaptarse a estas decisiones.

En el momento en el que a los grupos se les puso a mirar las fortalezas y debilidades de la interacción con otras culturas los Delfines se dieron cuenta que las fortalezas que esto trajo para armar el puente fue que tanto las Águilas como los Delfines tenían un tiempo flexible el cual hizo que ninguno tuviera un choque ahí, también los Delfines debieron reconocer el trabajo de otra cultura que quiso intervenir para ayudarlos y por ultimo tuvieron que tener respeto y tolerancia hacia las Águilas, no hay mejor comunicación que saber hablar pero más importante es saber escuchar.

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Las debilidades que los Delfines encontraron al interactuar con las dos Águilas que llegaron al grupo fue que había falta de comunicación ya que las dos culturas se comunicaban de forma diferente, además se notaba un impedimento entre las dos culturas ya que la distancia era muy notable. Sin embargo, pudieron armar el puente y al finalizar el logro fue compartido entre Águilas y Delfines.

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ZANTES

En el juego de simulación intercultural el grupo tres era el grupo de los Zantes, el cual estaba conformado por diez integrantes.

La primera actividad que se realizo fue escoger algunas cartas de reglas culturales y con estas se creó una nueva cultura con las acciones dados, para ello tenían que crear un mito explicando cómo nació la cultura. Las que escogimos fueron las de color naranja las cuales representan los gestos y el contacto con los ojos (hacer sonar nuestros dedos y mirar fijamente), azul clara que eran los estilos de escucha (sabían escuchar y hablan cuando el otro terminaba), el color rosado representa contacto (se caracterizaban los Zantes porque les gustaba el contacto con los demás), realizaban gestos mientras hablan para ayudar a los otros a entender, y por ultimo estaba la carta beige que era la orientación al tiempo (eran muy rigurosos con el tiempo, para ellos este valía oro). En el desarrollo de esta primera actividad se pudo notar que dentro del grupo había integrantes con personalidades muy distintas, ya que algunos estaban muy concentrados en el juego y muy participativos, mientras que otros miembros del grupo solo estaban escuchando y no aportaban ideas sino al contrario hacen lo que otros compañeros decían. Con el tiempo todos los integrantes empezaron a practicar sus características culturales respectivas y finalmente para esta actividad trabajaron muy bien porque todos se familiarizaron con sus valores (que eran iguales) por lo cual no existió ningún conflicto.

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La segunda actividad que se realizo fue la de crear un puente con unos materiales que los monitores suministramos al grupo, el puente debía ser innovador y confortable. Al comenzar el puente el grupo trabajo muy bien ya que todos se escuchaban y trabajaban efectivamente para poder realizar un buen trabajo, a cada instante se percibían los valores del grupo porque constantemente los estaban practicando y utilizando para realizar su trabajo. Cuando ya tenían la mitad del puente el grupo fue dividido y a los Zantes llegaron integrantes de los Delfines y de las Águilas, con los cuales se pudo evidenciar el impacto cultural de estos nuevos integrantes ya que tenían características totalmente distintas, algunos llegaron a ser ofensivos, aplaudían constantemente, no les gustaba el contacto, todos tenían sus características culturales muy marcadas y distintas lo cual produjo que se crearan conflictos. Cuando los miembros de los Delfines y de las Águilas intervinieron en la creación del puente se pudo notar que en un principio cambiaron drásticamente la estructura del puente, construyeron algo totalmente distinto a lo que habían realizado los Zantes, pero con el tiempo esta estructura se volvía a acoplar un poco a lo que fue la de los Zantes y el grupo multicultural pudo crear un excelente puente. Los jugadores pudieron comprender el impacto que la cultura tiene en cada una de sus vidas.

Los juegos anteriores permitieron comprender al grupo el impacto que tiene la cultura, por esto es indispensable que a la hora de negociar se conozca y además se entienda la cultura con la que se va a negociar para tener la capacidad de resolver problemas y para trabajar de manera efectiva. Y finalmente la conclusión más importante es que hay que aprender a manejar nuestras conductas y valores a la hora de negociar con personas que tengan diferencias culturales.

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CONCLUSIÓN

En conclusión esta actividad a los 4 monitores fue muy productiva. Entendimos las diferencias culturales con unas simples actividades que nos dan un ejemplo de cómo serian una negociación o trabajo en equipo con miembros de otros países, nos enseño como escuchar y ser de mente abierta siempre para la negociación aprender lo mejor del otro y siempre respetar a los demás.

AGUILAS

The Aguilas were a group of ten students, each given rule cards. The values and actions on the Aguila cards were:

  • You believe it is rude to express your opinions too strongly. You prefer to question others’ opinions before sharing your own, and you frequently affirm the points others have made by offering examples.
  • When someone tells you something you’ve heard before, you clap. You look above the person’s head when you wish to demonstrate disagreement.
  • To understand more fully what someone is saying, you interrupt, clarify and summarize.
  • You believe that things move according to their own rhythm, and that time is artificial. You don’t hurry decisions or tasks and rather prefer that they unfold. Clocks and references to time make you uncomfortable.
  • In discussions you are more comfortable standing or sitting at least an arm’s length away from others. Physical contact is extremely uncomfortable for you.

After discussing and understanding the behaviors to follow, the Aguilas created their myth. The members were very creative and related their values with the name of the group, determining that they became independent fairly recently, and that their god was the eagle, which determined their need for space, no physical contact, and submissiveness to the opinions of others.

Next they began the construction of the bridge. The members decided to use other resources in addition to those provided by the facilitators.

After building for a while, participants were mixed. Five Aguilas left to join the Delfins and the Zantes. The remaining Aguilas were joined by five Zante participants, forming a Joint Venture group of five Zanteans and five Aguilas. The culture of the Zantes was absolutely opposite to that of the Aguilas, so the joint bridge building was quite a challenge. Despite the differences, however, everyone participated actively and took the project forward.

Upon concluding the simulation the participants presented their creation myth, and then conducted a debriefing discussion that led to the following conclusions:

The elements that helped the mixed group of two cultures to be more effective and collaborative were:

  • Each culture’s members knew how to listen.
  • Members of both cultures worked in groups to a common purpose.
  • Despite the cultural differences, there was tolerance, and participants did not generate conflict, so the group work was flexible.

The elements that impeded effectiveness and collaboration between the two cultures were:

  • The Aguila culture was very flexible with time, which meant that time was not used in an effective manner. “Time is gold.”
  • Differences in and lack of knowledge of verbal and body language of the different culture
  • Difference in affection and physical contact in each of the cultures

Group members came up with three strategies that would have helped them understand each other better and utilize the abilities of each of the members of the mixed culture:

  • Have previous contact with the other culture, in order to understand the different behaviors.
  • Replace body language with verbal language, in order to have better understanding.
  • Keep the task clearly in mind in order to plan and perform it correctly.
  • Implement a division of labor.

Finally, the group created the following process map illustrating the process they experienced:

DELFINUS

The personality of the Delfins can be described as that of a secluded culture that doesn’t like to have contact with other cultures. Apart from this, they always want to be right when they communicate with others, making it difficult to come to an agreement. This was evident in the work: when there was a change of cultures it was difficult to contribute anything to this culture.

The Delfins were assembling their bridge, all of its members had their job and were working to build the bridge, and everyone understood each other well. When they disagreed they spoke and quickly reached an agreement that would benefit everyone. Within the culture there was not a problem or discussion of the decisions made.

When the two Aguilas joined the group to continue assembling the bridge, since there were a majority of Delfins, you could see the Aguilas were a bit left out and discriminated against, as Delfins don’t like to interact with other cultures. It was clear that with the majority and minority in this group, the majority made decisions and the minority had to adapt itself to those decisions.

When the group members reflected on their strengths and weaknesses interacting with other cultures, the Delfins realized that the strengths for building the bridge included that both the Aguilas and the Delfins had a flexible sense of time, so there was no problem there. Also, the Delfins needed to acknowledge the work of the other culture, to have respect and tolerance for the Aguilas and realize that they wanted to help, that there is no better way to communicate than to know how to speak but even more to know how to listen.

The weaknesses that the Delfins encountered when interacting with the two Aguilas who arrived to the group were that there was a lack of communication due to the fact that the two cultures communicated in a different form, in addition another impediment between the two cultures was that the distance was very notable. Nevertheless, they were able to build the bridge and the accomplishment was shared between the Aguilas and the Delfins.

ZANTES

In the intercultural simulation, the third group was the Zantes, composed of ten members.

The first activity was to choose cultural rule cards to create a new culture with the actions described on them. In order to do that, the members needed to use the rules to author a myth about how the culture was born. The rules chosen included the orange color—gestures and eye contact (snap one’s fingers and stare), light blue — listening style (listen closely and speak only when the other has finished), pink—representing touch (this characterized the Zantes because they loved touching others), gesticulating while talking in order to help others understand, and the last was the beige card—time orientation (very rigorous with time, as time is golden). During this first activity it was noteworthy that there were members of the group with very distinct personalities. Some concentrated on the game and were very participatory, others in the group were only listening and rather than contribute ideas they did what the others said. With time the group members began practicing their cultural characteristics and finally they worked together very well, because everyone was familiar with their values (they were all equal) and there was no conflict.

The second activity the group realized was to create a bridge with some materials that the facilitators gave the group. The bridge needed to be innovative and aesthetically pleasing. When beginning the bridge the group worked very well together; everyone listened to one another and they worked effectively to complete the work. At each moment one could perceive the values of the group because they were constantly practicing and utilizing them during their work. When they already had half the bridge built, the group was divided and some Delfins and Aguilas joined the Zantes. At this point the cultural impact was evident; some arrived offensively—they clapped constantly, they didn’t like touching others—everyone had cultural characteristics that were very marked and distinct and that created conflicts. When the members of the Delfins and the Aguilas joined the creation of the bridge, it was noted that at one point the structure of the bridge changed drastically; they constructed something completely distinct from what the Zantes had originally been building. However, with time the structure returned to something similar to what the Zantes had intended, and the multicultural group was able to create an excellent bridge. The players were able to understand the impact that culture has on each of their lives.

The simulation permitted group members to understand the impact of culture, and that it is indispensable to recognize and understand culture when negotiating, in order to be able to resolve problems and work in an effective manner. Finally, the most important conclusion is that we need to learn to manage our conduct and values when negotiating with people who are culturally different from us.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, this activity was very productive for the four of us as co-facilitators. We understood cultural differences with these simple activities. It provided us an example of how a negotiation or teamwork could be with people from other countries. It taught us how to listen and to maintain an open mind during negotiations, to learn the best of the other and to always respect others.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us, students! Any of our readers who are interested in Ecotonos, you can find more information or order the simulation by clicking here.