How Storytelling Affects the Brain

brainOnstorytelling OneSpot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lampooning Leads to Apology for Sensationalism

2015.1.27.BF.COMMInaccuracies in journalism are of increasing concern to me, as is the idea that so many consumers of communication media fail to use their critical thinking skills, and, rather, believe a sensational report without checking facts. Journalists can easily fuel people’s worst fears, feeding an “us vs. them” mentality. I spoke about this in my recent Charlie Hebdo post.

If we are to create a world for ourselves in which we respect, understand, and value one another, one in which we are able to cooperate in sustainable ways, we need accurate and thorough information on which to base decisions. We need to be able to discern “gray” areas, and think things through from different perspectives.

On a slightly divergent thought track, I occasionally marvel at how powerful the visual arts, comedy, movies, and performances are in generating a paradigm shift in the general population—the sort of paradigm shift that is needed if we are to develop intercultural competence. I feel that news media should help us think things through by gathering facts, but all too often, it is the arts that help inspire us to do so.

Recently, a post crossed my desk that brings these two ideas together for me in a salient way. One of our Cultural Detective series’ authors—Basma Ibrahim DeVries—shared a link on Facebook to a story that resulted in truth telling. A major news outlet was forced to admit its multiple errors and publicly apologize for their inaccuracies, perhaps, in part, stimulated by a French television comedy show—Le Petit Journal!

Fox News interviewed someone who presented as fact that there are “no-go zones” in Europe—places in which Islamic law supersedes local law and non-Muslims fear to go. “No-go zones,” viewers were told, included the entire city of Birmingham, England and a half-dozen key areas of Paris. Fox also made various other claims, which met with widespread criticism from the likes of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the threat of a lawsuit from the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

Le Petit Journal was quick to offer its humorous and yet informative rebuttal. Below is a clip of the show, in French with English subtitles.

I live in Mexico, and over the past five years I’ve experienced the negative impact that sensationalism and inaccurate, biased reporting can have on a country and its people.Often, this media bias is not confronted.  In this instance, however, Fox actually issued four separate apologies in one day for portraying Muslims in a negative light.

“Fox News took time out of four broadcasts on Saturday to apologize for four separate instances of incorrect information that portrayed Muslims in a negative light.
—CNN

Once Fox News apologized, our French comedy show, Le Petit Journal, had to gloat, of course. They lampooned Fox with great gusto while munching on super-sized popcorn and soda. Click on the link to view the video.

I am happy to hear that Fox News was forced to apologize for their biased and false “reporting.” I am grateful to know that the public expression of outrage and humor can still have some effect, however fleeting it might be. If, like me, you’d like to read more about the poll Fox cited, that one in six French citizens support ISIS, you might reference a much more insightful piece about it, published by the Washington Post.

The Cultural Detective Method helps people separate facts—what people see and hear—from interpretations, or what the facts mean to a person observing them. Our values influence how we interpret the facts—the meaning we give to the situation. Given personal and cultural differences, the facts may mean different things to different people. This is normal and to be expected. However, what we want from journalists is, to the best of their ability, the specific details and essential data necessary for us to understand a situation more accurately and thoroughly. Situations these days are often complex rather than clear-cut. Reporting on complex realities is difficult in the best of circumstances, and we applaud those ethical journalists who work to make it happen.

Thank you for accompanying us on this journey to build intercultural competence. Together, we can build international understanding, respect, and justice.

Ever Feel Crazy? Van Gogh and the Blended Culture Person

seeAs a Blended Culture person, do you ever feel crazy? Do you feel that you see things others can’t? Being skilled in multiple cultures is a great asset, a blessing, really. Our ability to see multiple perspectives, multiple realities, is such a needed ability in this world of ours. Very little in life is truly black or white; we need people who can distinguish and navigate—lead us through—the grays. Our world needs Blended Culture leaders, artists, mediators.

Being a Blended Culture person, however, can cause us to feel, well, isolated. Misunderstood. Tired. We might occasionally feel distrusted by those around us. Like too much responsibility for helping others to understand falls on our shoulders. Like we never fully fit in anywhere. Or, if we do, that we are always missing someone else or something else. Always torn.

I was reminded of the Blended Culture experience recently, when I saw the video below. The video uses animation to explain that Van Gogh, while psychotic, was able to perceive something others didn’t—one of nature’s most complex concepts—turbulence, or turbulent flow. Turbulent flow is something that science is only now, 125 years after Van Gogh’s death, starting to understand. Van Gogh painted such turbulence while he was in an insane asylum, no doubt feeling isolated and misunderstood, as so many Blended Culture people occasionally do.

To thrive as Blended Culture people we need patience as well as communication skills. We need to be able to translate what we know, see, and feel so that others who don’t have our multiple perspectives can get a glimpse into other worlds. This is the other huge gift that Van Gogh demonstrated. He was not only able to perceive turbulence when others didn’t, he was able to show us, communicate about it via his paintings, so that the rest of us are able to see it, too! That is the true gift of a Cultural Bridge person!

How does one become a person who builds Cultural Bridges? Using the Cultural Detective Method helps us understand that there are multiple, valid perspectives in any situation and suggests ways to build “communication bridges” across cultural divides. Cultural Detective Online provides low-cost access to more than 60 cultures so you can practice your “bridging skills” and learn to facilitate communication with those who are culturally different.

So the next time you are feeling a bit crazy as a Blended Culture person, seeing “too many” sides of a situation, remember you have a skill—and that you can learn the ability to communicate it to others and build bridges between perspectives!

#MyGlobalLife Link-Up

Je Suis Ahmed! Je Suis Charlie! I’ll Ride With You!

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The Cultural Detective series includes a critical incident entitled, “Danish Cartoon Controversy” (in the Cultural Detective Global Diversity and Inclusion package), about the backlash against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. We publish it to build understanding of diverse perspectives of the issue and promote meaningful dialogue, healing, and community cohesion.

My childhood aspiration was to become a cartoonist. I practiced for years, and even won a few contests. The events that happened in Paris yesterday, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, feel very close to me, despite the ocean separating Mexico and France. I have tremendous respect for all who fight for freedom of speech AND respect for others, as both, together, are key to civil society.

I stand strong with caricaturists, cartoonists, and journalists worldwide. Here in Mexico where I reside such are far from safe professions. And those who responsibly help us to think more deeply, to see more facets to issues facing us, play a hugely important role in society. Those who use their profession (journalist or imam, cartoonist or preacher) to teach racism, hatred, and disrespect instead of critical thinking and insight, or who promote sensationalism, jumping on the bandwagon of the latest craze or fad to gain viewership, do not respect their own role or power, nor do they show responsibility to the community in which we live.

I love that people throughout the world have risen up in protest against terrorism and defense of the right to free speech. Long live the people! I fear, however, that the “Je suis Charlie” movement will be misconstrued or highjacked as pro-France and anti-Muslim, rather than as anti-terror, as happens oh-so-easily on the world stage. Such is the risk, and complexity, of this media-rich global arena in which communication takes place today.

Terrorism is awful. We can all unite against it. Yet, when terrorists are white, there is not the horrible backlash that there so sadly and predictably is when the terrorists are people of color or Muslim. One more ugly white privilege that I don’t want: I am privileged to not be profiled or publicly disdained, despite the fact that the suspect in the bombing of the NAACP building in Colorado Springs is a homegrown white US American, like me.

AhmedI am, therefore, very encouraged that the #JeSuisAhmed hashtag has risen in popularity with the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag so quickly. Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim, was one of the police officers killed during the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris. The Maroon Colony wrote an excellent piece on why the Ahmed hashtag is so important.

And at what point, will we draw the lines between “freedom of speech” and “hate speech”? At what point do mainstream media outlets, which are largely controlled and written by White people, stop racializing Islam and stop creating humor based on the humiliation of people of color and their culture and faiths? At what point do White people have that moment of self-reflection, without the threat of terrorism to do so?
—The Maroon Colony

I found The Maroon Colony article powerful, but then I read a post by Christoph Jakob on a friend’s wall, and it reconfirmed how very complicated, and in need of thoughtful discussion, this all is:

The person on the second cartoon is the very well respected French Minister of Justice, Christine Taubira. She was compared by a right wing politician to a monkey eating bananas because of the colour of her skin For this comparison he was sentenced and excluded from his party. This started a national debate about limits of freedom of speech and expression. Charlie Hebdo published several cartoons on the topic, always defending 100% Christine Taubira and against all sorts of racism. Mrs Taubira herself mentioned the cartoon during a TV interview and thanked Charlie Hebdo for their support. The name of the right wing party is “rassemlement bleu Marine” thats why in the cartoon the text stays “rassemblement bleu racisme”.

We all stand with the victims. We stand with the need for free speech AND for civil discourse, dialogue, respect, understanding, and community building, not violence. And, I hold out hope that an outcome of the horrible violence can be that we all start to reflect on the inherent bias we all have in our worldviews and communication, myself included.

_79734878_thankyouI am encouraged that we increasingly have voices speaking up, so lucidly, to a minority experience, to the experience of those outside the mainstream power centers. I am reminded of the wonderful #illridewithyou movement in Australia, aimed to stand in solidarity with Muslim neighbors and help them stay safe in the backlash of a terrorist attack. I was sooooo so proud of Australians for that!

Let us stand united, everyone. Do not let the terrorists win, by letting them turn us toward hate, toward division, toward drawing lines between us, towards curtailing freedom of speech in this world of ours. Let us unite against terrorism by binding ourselves together, by learning about and celebrating our differences, by charging ourselves to continual learning, reflection on our own biases and communication, so that, together, we can create a world in which all of us can feel safe, valued, and know that our voices matter.

Want to Get Out of the One-Shot Training Rut?

Ribbet collageOne Client’s Story

A few months ago I received a call from a dear friend and respected colleague. He told me that he had a client very committed to diversity and inclusion, that hired him once a quarter, every quarter, to design a 2-1/2 hour workshop. He delivered the workshop to a total of 300 employees, so he facilitated it about eight times over. Great client, right? A full week of work every quarter, on an ongoing basis…

He told me about some of the topics he’d covered, and some of the methods he’d used; they were all fantastic. He reported to me that everyone attending would have a really great time. The participants would learn, the evaluations would be excellent, and my friend would get hired back.

But he also told me that, while lucrative for him and enjoyable for the learners, he felt his approach wasn’t really accomplishing anything. My colleague was frustrated because he didn’t feel the learners were really developing skills, they weren’t changing what they did at work, and the organization wasn’t developing the intercultural competence it needs. He knows that real competence requires ongoing practice, and he thought Cultural Detective could help.

The client is a division of a major university. The employees interface daily with students and scholars from all over the world, and they, themselves, are a very diverse team. My colleague wanted to embark on a two-year project with a coherent, developmental design for his workshop series. He felt that Cultural Detective could be the anchor, the “backbone,” so to speak, the constant throughout the two years. But how did he plan to do this?

He wanted to start by having me join him for the first workshop, so that I could introduce the 300 employees of this university division to the Cultural Detective Model. While I was there with them, he wanted me to also train him and a few on-site facilitators (Diversity and Inclusion trainers as well as those from Organizational Effectiveness) in the Cultural Detective Method.

coverIslamOver the next two years, he wants to use Cultural Detective to help the employees develop more in-depth knowledge and skills for working with individual cultures. For example, one quarter they might learn more about how to work with East Asians, using CD ChinaCD Japan, etc., as resources. Another quarter they might focus on Muslim cultures, using CD IslamCD MalaysiaCD Arab Gulf, and CD Turkey, etc. In the months between workshops, supervisors will work with employees to ensure that the skills they learn in the workshops are applied on the job. They will use university staff and students as resources and after each workshop, program leaders will agree on an “application plan” to encourage employees to use the ideas presented and practice their skills between workshops.

How, exactly?

In the first workshop, we used critical incidents that were drafted by the client’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. These included stories of staff interaction with students from around the world, as well as stories of employee interaction with one another. We analyzed these incidents together in the workshop, and learned what each of us could do to improve our performance, to better understand our customers (in this case, students) and colleagues, and we generated ideas for improving the organization’s systems, procedures, and structures, to make it more inclusive. We also played several learning games and simulations, and participated in other, supplementary exercises.

Here is what program leaders agree will take place after the first workshop and before the second in order to help ensure skill development and application:

  • In the weekly “mini-meetings” that all supervisors conduct with staff, they will ask employees to share a “best intercultural practice” they’ve learned that week, as well as cross-cultural questions or incidents they’ve experienced.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force members will write up critical incidents and Sample Debriefs for each of the areas of the workplace that they represent. They will invite employees to attend sessions in which they discuss and analyze the incidents, thereby continuing to build employee knowledge and skill, and continuing to interculturalize organizational processes.

cover_selfdiscovery copyThe second workshop is planned for the first quarter of 2015. In that workshop, my colleague is planning to introduce Cultural Detective Self Discovery to the employees, helping them each to develop their own Personal Values Lenses. Employees will then compare their personal values with US American, African-American, and Latino-Hispanic values (the primary composition of the workforce), as well as to those values of the many nationalities of students with whom the employees work. They’ll learn how to remain true to themselves, and how to adapt their behavior to be more cross-culturally effective. They will also use their Personal Values Lenses to get to know one another in a more meaningful way, and to discuss ways to improve their work teams: how to effectively collaborate to bring out the best in each other.

Employee representatives, supervisors, and Diversity and Inclusion Task Force members will meet after the second workshop to decide on an application plan for what the employees have learned. Their goal will be to figure out how best to reinforce the learning on the job, to be sure it gets used, and that employees continue to develop their competence. In addition, they will work to ensure that the organization continues to refine its policies, procedures and structures for intercultural effectiveness.

My guess is they will recommend ongoing team meetings that use the Personal Values Lenses, as well as having teams share their own critical incidents based on their own experiences. In this manner, the group will continue developing their intercultural competence, they will develop a library of resources on intercultural effectiveness to use to train new hires and continue to develop themselves, and they will maximize the intercultural effectiveness of the organization. Program leaders will then plan the third workshop, followed by an application plan, and so on.

In this way, over the next two years, my colleague is confident that these 300 employees he’s had the pleasure of working with will truly develop their understanding of themselves as cultural beings. They will learn how to better manage cross-cultural situations with the students, and how to better function in the multicultural teams of which they are members. Plus, they will help improve the intercultural competence of the division in which they work.

I do hope they will do a pre- and post-assessment, using the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) or some other instrument, to track employees’ progress. It would also be useful to record the systemic and procedural changes made, and see if there are differences in work-team functioning and in student satisfaction with employee performance. I believe research of this sort would be invaluable in showing how improving cultural competence can be a worthwhile investment of time, money and people’s energy.

I greatly appreciate the invitation to join the group to be part of the beginning of this grand undertaking. I look forward to watching as the program moves along its path, and intercultural competence spreads among the staff and organization. I am confident my friend’s plan is going to be hugely successful and wish him and the organization the best of luck!

2014 Year in Review

240_F_71469226_XoKVyVhM4OzQ7CXxB9e3H6myQHfmjOP7The entire Cultural Detective Team would like to thank you most sincerely for being part of our community, and wish you much joy, health and success in the new year!

2014 was a big year for Cultural Detective, as we celebrated our 10th anniversary! We are thrilled to have grown into such a large and talented community of people worldwide, committed to making our world more respectful, collaborative, just and sustainable. Thank you for joining us on this very important journey!

LayeredLensesFinalThis year we were able to achieve another milestone: launching our best-selling Cultural Detective Self Discovery (currently in beta) as part of our Cultural Detective Online platform. This is a huge step forward for our small business.

We are proud that our online tool encourages people to look at themselves and others as beings that are influenced by various cultures, not just nationalities. Now, people are able to explore their individual values as well—their uniqueness—and how they’ve been personally influenced by the cultures around them.

After developing a Personal Values Lens, users can then compare their values with those of any other Values Lens in the online system. This offers a way to investigate aspects of a new culture they might resonate with or find challenging. And it provide a way to strategize about how best to adapt for success cross-culturally, while preserving their sense of self and, also very importantly, their ethics. If you haven’t yet given CD Online a go, you are certainly missing out! Nearly every day I hear a new customer tell me they can’t believe how powerful Cultural Detective Online is, and how affordable. So what are you waiting for?

One additional huge milestone in the CD Online system is the improved group functionality. We are thrilled that users within a group can now collaborate on writing critical incidents and debriefs. Think of the possibilities: your learners working together on cross-cultural stories, told from each person’s perspective! Individual learners can choose to share (or not share) their incidents with the group by submitting it to the group administrator—trainer, coach, professor or team lead. The group administrator can then request the learner to edit the incident and debrief further, or can share the incident and debrief with the entire group. This functionality is transforming the way customers use our system and develop intercultural competence. It is thrilling to witness!

online-learningBecause of these two huge enhancements to our online system, we will be adding a couple of standard webinars to our lineup. As you know, we already conduct monthly complimentary webinars introducing people to this powerful process for cross-cultural collaboration. In 2015, we will add to that lineup by offering a webinar on Cultural Detective Self Discovery, and a second one on Using Group Functionality in CD Online.

The first quarter schedule is live at www.CulturalDetective.EventBrite.com, and additional webinars will be announced throughout the year. One series we are hoping to add will deal with race and power issues, with the intent that by the end of the year we will have some constructive ideas on how to dialogue more effectively with friends, family and colleagues, and how to promote societal change and healing.

Check back frequently and please let your friends and colleagues know about these terrific professional development opportunities. We have people joining our webinars at all hours of the day and night. More importantly and unbelievably, they actually THANK us for keeping them up at 3 am! (We do schedule our webinars at different times to allow for time zone differences, by the way. It’s just that some people are more eager than others.)

In 2014, we added 5000 new readers to our blog, with readers joining us from 167 countries this past year. I find that very encouraging! Our social media reach has grown extensively. Cultural Detective has an active presence on Twitter, LinkedIn (group), Facebook (page), YouTube (channel) and GooglePlus, as well as a Pinterest board of proverbs, several ScoopIt boards, and a weekly Paper.li Intercultural Competence News Feed.

Are you curious what sorts of posts attracted all these new readers? Here is a list of the top ten most popular posts we published this year:

  1. The Nasty (and Noble) Truth about Culture Shock Published in August and already outranking posts published earlier in the year, this post contains a wealth of information, debunks a common myth, and includes free downloadable training materials.
  2. Another Intercultural Research Paper Supports the Cultural Detective Approach Published in January 2014, this post soared to the top of our list and proves you are hungry for research. This study came from Bertelsmann, Stiftung and Fundazione Cariplo.
  3. New Year’s Gift: Oldie but Goodie—The STADIApproach An excellent, tried-and-true design piece, this freebie is still yours for the downloading.
  4. Are You Nice? A guest blog post by Carrie Cameron from May, 2014, recommending to our readers the excellent work of Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson. Congratulations and thanks, Carrie!
  5. We Are Not (Just) Our Nationalities A very important post from June of this year, we hope each and every one of you will read it and pass it around. None of us has just one story, and Cultural Detective helps us learn about the multiple cultures that influence us, while reminding us we are each unique individuals.
  6. Lack of Diversity Correlates with Religious Hostility This post looks at the powerful results of a Pew Research study and was published in April of this year. If you missed it, be sure to take a look now!
  7. Cultural Detective as a Facilitator’s Magic Tool This guest blog post by facilitator and joke-teller extraordinaire, Tatyana Fertelmeyster, is from June 2014. Congratulations and thank you, Tatyana!
  8. User Tip: Bridging Cultures Offering advice for getting the most out of Cultural Detective, this post was shared with us by long-time expert user Meg Quinn, and just published in October. Congratulations and thank you, Meg!
  9. Clean House and Change the Bedding to Greet the Lava A terrific post that came about because an esteemed colleague, Tim Sullivan, shared the video with us. TERRIFIC training material and an excellent resource on the cultural dynamics of current news! Do not miss this one.
  10. 4 Methods of Learning Culture A short and very powerful excerpt from Cultural Detective Self Discovery, published in early September and quickly gaining in popularity.
  11. Are Emoji the World’s Newest Language A world language quiz and Beyoncé video subtitled in emoji accompanied this post, published in October.

We are thrilled that our blog is now read by over 20,000 people worldwide! We would be proud to showcase the work you are doing to promote intercultural competence, so send your draft article or idea to: blog@culturaldetective.com.

Five of the posts that made it into the top ten list of most-read posts this year were actually written in previous years. Those posts include:

  1. Ten Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups Originally published in June 2013, this post hit its height of popularity in September and October 2014, with over a thousand hits each month—proving that trainers love new ideas!
  2. Five Top (Free and Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools You May Not (Yet) Be Using Published in November 2013, this post has been a consistent reference tool for our readers ever since.
  3. Can you read this? Originally published in July 2012, this post has slowly but steadily gained popularity every month since. It takes a popular Facebook image created for Spanish readers, accompanied by a similar one created for English readers, and asks you to reflect on the definition of culture and its role in what we perceive. If you haven’t read it, you are overdue.
  4. Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace Published March 2013, this is the post with the most popular video we have ever produced, and presents the findings of the British Council study. Videographers we are not, but even the British Council added our video to their web page.
  5. Want to Feel Ukiuki, Pichipichi and Pinpin? Japanese Food Onomatopoeia One of my personal favorites, this post has gained popularity among our food-related posts, and we know you love food!

From the list above, there are four posts that were not in our top ten for 2014, but still make the blog’s overall top ten list. Those include:

  1. Bicycling in the Yogurt: the French Food Fixation, a terrific guest post by Joe Lurie. If you speak French or enjoy eating, give it a read. Thanks again to Joe for his terrific collaboration in so many ways.
  2. “Belief Holding” as an Intercultural Competence: Religious less motivated by compassion One of my all-time favorite comics and one of my all-time favorite cross-cultural competencies (Michael Rokeach’s Open and Closed Mind), plus the findings of a UC Berkeley study.
  3. Using Film in Intercultural Education I’m very grateful this post is still in our all-time top ten, because it helps me feel our dear colleague and friend Kevin Booker is still with us.
  4. More Cultural Appropriation: The Swastika Also grateful to still see this post up high on the list, because it’s about my all-time favorite critical incident. I shouldn’t play favorites, but I absolutely love this story; it’s just so typical of what happens in Global Diversity work.

Finally, when you write a blog, you love it when someone comments. Otherwise, you can easily get to feeling you are writing in a vacuum. Hearty and heartfelt thanks, therefore, to our most frequent commenters in 2014, each of whom are extraordinary builders of intercultural competence in their own right: George Simons, Vanessa Shaw, Shan McSpadden, Anna Mindess, Jenny Ebermann, and Olivier Marsily.

We look forward to having you join us in a webinar, to reading a guest blog post you might submit, or to dialoguing with you via comments on the blog or social media. Bless you for your commitment to building respect, understanding, collaboration and justice in this world of ours! May 2015 bring you health, joy, love and success!

There is No Such Thing as Common Sense

CDModel&BridgeOrganizations want to hire employees with common sense. Parents want to raise children with good common sense. Universities and schools want to teach our young people to have common sense.

The trouble with the concept is this: my “common sense” is not your “common sense.” What’s common sense to one person is not to another. For example, if a friend stumbles and trips but is obviously unhurt, do you:
  1. Express verbal concern, asking if they are ok?
  2. Pretend you did not notice, to spare any embarrassment?
  3. Make a joke, to lighten the mood and relieve any awkwardness?
  4. Smile or laugh awkwardly, to share the embarrassment with your friend?
Each of these responses can be “common sense” in different circumstances, in different cultures. What if an angry customer calls me? A “common sense” customer service response could include, depending on the corporate culture, national, ethnic or generational culture of the customer service agent:
  1. Doing whatever is within my power, exerting all possible avenues to make the customer happy;
  2. Apologizing and then educating the customer so that they learn how something works and won’t feel frustrated again the next time; or
  3. Telling the customer “no,” as what the customer wants is not part of the contract.

What does the dictionary provide us as the meaning of the term?

Common Sense
noun Sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.
Origin 1525-35; translation of Latin sēnsus commūnis, itself translation of Greek koinḕ aísthēsis

With such a terrific definition, anyone would want to have common sense. Yet, what is “sound practical judgment” in the tropics (how to stay hydrated and prevent heat and sun stroke) is quite different from “normal native intelligence” in snow country (how to stay warm and find food when it’s cold). Common sense for accountants (income vs. payments needs to balance or be positive) may be quite different than that for sales people (invest now for payoffs later). Sound judgment for women is, fortunately or unfortunately, frequently different than that for men; common sense for a Baby Boomer is often remarkably different than that of a Millennial; and US American society is finally starting to realize that common sense (survival instincts) for a black person is radically different than that for whites.

Common sense depends on where we are, how we’ve been raised, and what knowledge is “common” or shared by members of our communities. Common sense is developed so that we can survive and thrive in the world around us. Thus, common sense is really “cultural sense,” common only to those who share it: those who share a given culture.

Common sense is really “cultural sense,” common only to those who share it: those who share a given culture.

How do we say “common sense” in some major world languages? Might that provide further insight?

     Key: native language, transliteration, “literal meaning”

  • In Arabic: الحِس العام, Al ḥes al ‘aaam, “public sense” or “general sense”
  • In Chinese: 常识, chángshì, or “general knowledge”
  • In French: le bon sense, or “good sense”
  • In German: de gesunder Menschenverstand, “the healthy human sense”
  • In Japanese: 常識, johshiki, or “everyday thinking”
  • In Russian: здравый смысл, zdravyy smysl, or “healthy wit,” meaning you must be crazy not to agree with it
  • In Spanish: sentido común, or “shared sense”

This is why “cultural sense” is a core concept in the Cultural Detective Model. You can see it prominently featured in the graphic at the top of this post, along the bottom edge of the circle. What does “cultural sense” mean, exactly?

Most of us act with the best of intentions on a daily basis. We perform our jobs in ways that we feel they should be done. We treat our co-workers in ways we feel reflect sound judgment. We deal with our neighbors in ways our native intelligence tells us is neighborly. We talk to our children in ways we believe will guide and motivate them, help them become better people. We put our common sense, our cultural sense, to use everyday.

Yet, all too often our actions are misperceived, and our customers, co-workers, neighbors and family members experience negativity in our behavior. They may get angry, frustrated, or disappointed with us. They may be confused about why we do what we do. That is because their common sense, their cultural sense, is different than ours. Their assumptions about appropriate behavior in a given situation are different than our own. Their beliefs about how the world is may differ from ours.

We all aspire to have common sense and to form teams and organizations with common sense. But it is important to remember that establishing shared “common sense” is an ongoing process. Miscommunication and misperception provide opportunities for us to better understand our own values and “native intelligence,” as well as to learn more about the values and native intelligence of those around us.

So, the next time you shake your head at someone’s behavior and wonder if they have any common sense, remember that their cultural sense may just be different than your own! It takes effort, but creating a “shared intelligence” or shared common sense provides a context in which all of us can work, live, and be our best. Regular use of Cultural Detective can help you achieve just that.

Part of the #MyGlobalLife Link-Up.

How Do Universities Develop Students’ Intercultural Competence?

543266_10150772354506354_665823583_nAnd why is Cultural Detective quickly becoming a preferred tool?

University of Southern California is the most international campus in the USA. The Marshall School of Business at USC recognizes the value of intercultural competence and is committed to truly developing it in their students.

They know that the mere experience of study abroad, or working in a multicultural team, does not build competence. Experience is not learning. Learning is the sense that we make of our experience. USC knows that research shows developing competence requires ongoing, structured reflection on the part of students—with faculty guidance. They have been using Cultural Detective for the past two years, in a growing variety of programs, because they realize the tool helps them accomplish their goals.

The video below is of Assistant Dean Gita Govahi, telling us why the Marshall School of Business has chosen Cultural Detective, and how they use it:

At Cultural Detective we are particularly impressed with something USC has done: they have students generate learning material for the following semester. For example, while students are abroad and after they return, they are required to upload stories of intercultural interaction from their own experience into Cultural Detective Online. They are also required to debrief those stories, to make sense from them. Each program and each semester, faculty award prizes for the “best of” these stories and debriefs, and honor the student-authors by using them in the pre-departure orientation for the next cadre of students.

This second video shows Professor Jolanta Aritz, giving her opinion as an instructor:

I often say that launching a book or a tool into the world is much like having a child: you nurture them to the best of your ability, and at some point you just have to pray that they do good in the world. Children become independent, with minds and lives of their own. Books and tools are used by people in ways we, the authors and creators, can not always control, despite our best efforts. It’s people like the talented professionals at USC who make us very, very proud of the tool we have created. They are putting it to excellent use and students are learning lifelong skills.

We know you all are doing some incredible things with our tools. Please, share your story and make sure we know about it!

Webinar Takes a Closer Look at the USA’s Current Racial Climate

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Photo from KTVU.com

Readers of this blog have been as upset about current events in the USA as we are. You read my earlier post, Time for a Racism Revolution. You no doubt have colleagues, friends and family, as we do, who don’t see what the big deal is. The dialogue is important and difficult, because it’s such a deep-seated issue that involves so many of our emotions and lived experiences. How to make forward progress? I had a glimmer of hope seeing that police chief (Richmond, CA) joining the protests and carrying a “Black Lives Matter” placard. Getting the police to join in breaks down the us vs. them divide and unites us all to work together to do what needs to be done and realize a society more in keeping with our ideals of justice and equality.

Cultural Detective African American co-authors, Patricia Coleman and Kelli McLoud Schingen, will facilitate a complimentary webinar this next Monday, December 15, 10:00 am – 11:30 am US Central (Chicago) time, in which they will review the current racial divide through the Values Lenses of African American and (white or dominant) US American culture. Do not miss this event! Details below; click on a photo to view it larger or print it out. To share this on social media, you might prefer this link. Please, help us spread the word!

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Global Nomad: Santa (Seriously)

P1210029SantaIn October of this year, walking around after a long week’s work in Vienna, the sight of Santa in a motorized scooter in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral brought a smile to my face and delight to my heart. Who was this guy? And what in the world was he doing?

Approaching the man, I found him quite jolly, and happy to share his story with me. While insisting that his real name is St. Niklaus, he told me that over the past 50 years he has traveled in 81 countries on six continents, hitchhiking over one million miles. He regaled me with stories, joy and laughter, and it warmed my heart to learn that this man is devoted to making the world a better place. Since he is a global nomad and shares our Cultural Detective vision, I thought you might enjoy his story. Maybe you’ve even met this unique gentleman yourself sometime during his world travels.

Santa, or Michael Klein (I learned his real name online), has been traveling the world since he was 29. He was born in Maryland USA, one of 14 children. Michael practiced being Santa ever since he was in elementary school; he loved sharing gifts and candy, and making people laugh. The past few years he has lived in Vienna, after a heart attack, health concerns, and resulting money woes paused his wandering ways. When I met him he was selling postcards of himself in various global locations. I bought one of him with a surfboard in Hawaii, as it reminded me of home in Mexico. Michael doesn’t speak German, at least not very well, but he sure does seem to fully enjoy life in Austria.

Santa urged me to check him out on the Internet, and there I found a campy Advent calendar in video format, with one two-minute episode for each of the first 24 days of December. I embed the first episode below; the link above will take you to all the rest. The calendar was produced by the Vienna Tourist Bureau, so you get to experience some of the sights, sounds and tastes of Wien as you get to know St. Niklaus. What I most enjoy is hearing his stories: what motivated him to pursue his nomadic ways, his value on freedom, how he financed his way around the world, the people he met, the experiences he had, and what his journeys have taught him.

 

How about sharing a story describing some of the quirky, unique people you’ve met during your journeys around the globe? Tell us about those wonderful people who remind us that it is our differences that bring some of the greatest joy to our everyday lives!