Great Culture-Crossers I Have Known (or wish I had!)

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Entrance to Woolarac Museum

This is a guest blog post by Carrie Cameron, co-author of Cultural Detective Russia. I assure you I would have been wrangling to get on the guest list for Frank’s annual party! What a mixer those must have been!

What do oil tycoons, American Indians, and bank robbers have in common? I had a chance to find out recently, when I visited the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA. The name “Woolaroc” is composed of the words “woods,” “lakes,” and “rocks.” The museum and surrounding natural park, located in the beautiful hills in the northernmost vestiges of the Ozark Mountains, was a gift to the people from Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum (Phillips 66). The museum is full of extraordinary Indian art and artifacts, as well as cowboy and frontier art and artifacts.

Mr. Phillips was born on a small farm in Nebraska, became a successful businessman, and married the daughter of a bank president. Moving to northern Oklahoma to buy land and drill for oil, he became deeply attached to the countryside, and also close to the Osage tribe living there. He was the first White man adopted into the tribe, a testament to his ability to transcend cultural differences.

He originally built Woolaroc as a personal retreat, to which he invited his wealthy business associates and friends. But perhaps his most remarkable social contribution was to host a grand party once a year to which he invited his business and family friends, his Osage Indian friends, local White settlers and cowboys, local lawmen, and bank robbers and cattle rustlers (who received full amnesty for that day). What a gathering that must have been.image003Phillips’ ability to value the humanity in an extraordinary range of people—rich and poor, White and Native American, businessman and cowboy, and even citizen and outlaw—was exceptional. It reminds us that building cultural bridges is not just about ethnicity or race, but about the many facets that make up our unique identities. Not simply tolerating—but actually thriving—on this kaleidoscope, Mr. Phillips appears to have been a Cultural Detective par excellence!

La Supervisión de una Fuerza de Trabajo Multicultural

web2Un segundo video tomado del webinar “Desarrollando habilidades interculturales en  profesionales globales”, el 24 de Octubre 2013, en el cual cuento una historia de la gerencia de un equipo de trabajo intercultural. Es la historia de un mecánico Holandés que trabaja como jefe de equipo en un buque de perforación petrolera frente a las costas de Argentina. La falta de competencias interculturales requeridas conlleva la pérdida de tres empleados, mucho dinero, y la reputación de la empresa en el mercado. Desafortunadamente es una situación muy común—una que Cultural Detective te ayuda a evitar.

Por favor, cuéntanos tu historia…

Historia 1

Historia 3

Link

This article by Vijay Nagaswami, “Culture vs. culture,” was sent to us via the marvelous Cultural Detective certified facilitator and current SIETAR India President, Sunita Nichani. She says, “Here is an interesting article published this Sunday in one of India’s leading newspapers, The Hindu. With the slow erosion of the custom of marrying within similar communities in India, intercultural competence will be vital for making marriages work.”

Lots of work to do in this world, in so many ways and places. Let’s get started, everyone!

Mashing-it-Up in Hong Kong: International Schools

By Barbara Schaetti, co-author of Cultural Detective Blended Culture
Reposted from Personal Leadership May 2012 Newsletter

International educators have historically assumed that K-12 international schools are, by default serving multinational and multicultural expatriate communities, providing students with experiences that result in intercultural competence. But are international schools truly teaching students to make meaning of their unique cultural experiences or, when it happens, is it more by good-fortune than by design?

I recently had the honor of being invited to HKISpresent a series of half-, one-, and two-day programs, at the Student Services Summit sponsored by the Hong Kong International School (HKIS). HKIS is among the top tier of K-12 international schools worldwide, and enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a premium institution. Although it was my first time at HKIS, working with and at the School had a quality of home-coming for me: I grew up attending international schools in West Africa and South East Asia, and consulted extensively with international schools throughout Europe and South Asia in the 1990’s. Although each international school varies from the next, the culturally diverse environment they typically offer is very much home territory for me.

And so what a joy to be asked to facilitate a two-day program for international educators titled Deepening Intercultural Competence: Developing an Intercultural Practice. Participants were international educators from across Asia and beyond, mainly developmental guidance counselors (with a couple of administrators too), who share a common passion for preparing their students to participate successfully in a globalized world. They were very ready for a professional development program focused on strengthening their own abilities to role model moment-to-moment intercultural practice.

I centered our time together on The MashUp: A Professional Toolkit for Developing Intercultural Competence. The MashUp (MU) is a natural and powerful combination of two leading processes in the development of intercultural competence: Cultural Detective (CD) and Personal Leadership (PL). Where PL provides a process to disentangle from automatic judgments, emotions, and physical sensations, and to open to the unique possibilities of the present moment, CD provides a process for deconstructing the intercultural dynamics at play, considering the values, beliefs and personal cultural sense that may be motivating people’s words and actions, and developing cultural bridges to close the gap. As an integration of the two, the MashUp offers a proven and exceptionally effective way to successfully strengthen intercultural competence in individuals, in teams, and across organizations.

In Hong Kong, the MashUp was very well received by participants who immediately saw its relevance and practical service to the daily situations they encounter – as international educators and as expatriates themselves. As one person put it:

“How thrilled I am to have experienced these past 2 days – I feel excited and energized, ready to begin a new journey! This has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I am leaving today with great ideas to enrich my practice, and steps to move towards this goal. I also believe that I have a group of colleagues who have a similar mindset and interest in adding value to their practice.”

I too left the session inspired. These international HK BAYeducators are ready to intentionally provide their students (no longer simply to trust to good-fortune) with the role-modeling, orientations, and practices that develop intercultural competence. And if that’s true of the educators in my session, then we can know it’s true of many more!

You have two opportunities to learn more about this developmental MashUp of PL and CD.

  1. The first opportunity will be live and in-person at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, July 16-20. Developing Intercultural Competence: An Integrated Practice will be conducted by Dianne Hofner Saphiere and myself, Barbara F. Schaetti.
  2. The second opportunity will be a blended learning course to be held September-December 2012. Developmental Intercultural Competence: Cultural Detective, Personal Leadership, and the DMIS, a transformative professional development course is an avant garde blended learning course focuses on how best to use the MashUp to support the development of intercultural sensitivity as illustrated by the DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity). This course will be conducted by Dianne, Heather Robinson, and me.

“Most Multicultural Teams are Dominated by One Cultural Group”

Or so claims Jeanne Brett in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. I will agree that most of the multicultural teams I’ve worked with over the past 28 years have been dominated by a sub-group of members. My guess is that’s the same for most teams, no matter the visible diversity of their composition.

This idea caught my attention, and I also really liked that rather than the usual analogy of talking about multicultural teams as symphony orchestras or likening them to herding cats, Jeanne relates multicultural teams to fusion cuisine. And who doesn’t like fusion cuisine? Way to sell multiculturalism!

“It turns out that fusion teams often … break a large team into smaller subgroups, encourage informal conversations, and thereby get input from previously quiet team members. Eventually, the subparts have to be integrated back into a whole; this turns out to be less of a problem than you’d think. In the teams we studied, the trust and respect generated within the subgroups made it reasonably easy to facilitate collaboration in the larger group.”

Another of Jeanne’s points very much echoes what the six expert, globally dispersed authors of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork have to say. Many of you know what a dynamite package that is and, if you don’t, please be sure to check it out! To quote Jeanne’s post:

“We’ve come across team leaders who achieve the same result (getting the most out of all cultural subgroups) by carefully establishing team norms at the start of a project. For example, we know of one manager who was leading an English-language software-development project; English was not his first language. In fact, his English was strongly accented. When he met with the team for the first time, he told them, ‘You’ve probably noticed I have an accent. If I could get rid of it, I’d be happy to do so, but since I cannot, we’re going to have to communicate … regardless of my accent or for that matter yours. If you do not understand me, or one another, whether it’s because of accent or anything else, we need to communicate until we do understand.'”

What do you think? In what ways are multicultural teams like fusion cuisine? What are some of your tried-and-true best practices for multicultural teamwork?

With Love, from War-torn Syria

On my second day in Damascus, I moved in with Noura and her family, only to find out that … they themselves have just miraculously escaped from their home town, Homs – the city that is being bombarded and torn apart by civil unrest!

Her brother has gone to school only 30 days this year. They were trapped in their house for two weeks without electricity. Each time they go to the grocery they are uncertain of ever being able to come back. Leaving their only source of income – an internet café – behind, the single mom and her two children have been struggling to avoid falling apart. With very limited resources, this refugee family has been hosting me, feeding me, loving me, giving me a bed, and escorting me to all sorts of sightseeing places that a tourist is supposed to visit. And all that amidst tears, fear, sadness, worries and uncertainty about their future.
In this picture, Noura and I are under the hooded cloaks, visiting Umayad Mosque, one of the earliest mosques in Islam, built on the 3000 year old remains of an Aramean temple. The worship site was turned into a Roman temple, later converted to a Christian church, and finally was dedicated to Islam in 636 (only four years after the death of Prophet Mohammad). The rich history of this mosque reminds us that holy sites should not be seen as the monopoly of one religion, and that we are the result of an accumulated heritage.

Looking at the chaos in some of the Arab countries right now, I can’t help wishing those various branches of Islam could understand this simple notion. And may the extremely hospitable people of their countries, like Noura’s family, teach them the lesson of co-existence, even in time of harshness.

Official Cultural Detective Animal

We already have a Cultural Detective theme song (La Boca de Cultura) thanks to our multicultural, multi-talented friends Kotolán. I now suggest that, as do many nations of our world, we name an official Cultural Detective animal. And my nomination is the thaumoctopus mimicus.

While many animals change shape or color, the Mimic Octopus studies others and then mimics their movements and their looks — instantly! And this octopus’ repertoire includes at least 15 different species!

Come on, polyglots, global nomads, TCKs, and other blended culture people, can you top that? It changes its behavior to suit its environment, and its behavior is contextually effective. Sound like anyone you know? Wonder who teaches, trains or coaches these octopi?

The thaumoctopus mimicus, or Culturoctopus Detecticus, would definitely seem to be one ethnorelatively developed, or, ahem, shall I say, “marizo-relatively” developed animal. Below you can view a short video of my nomination in action.

Let me know if you have other nominations, or thoughts on this one!

“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work!”

“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work: Rather than extinguish prejudice, diversity training promotes it!” This was the title of a 12 March 2012 Psychology Today online article.

While so many of us complain about media sensationalism, I begrudgingly have to admit that, in this case, the inflammatory title led me to read this article from among the 200+ crossing my desk that day.

The article’s author, Peter Bregman, relies on research from 2007 to prove his point. He repeats or paraphrases the subtitle four times throughout his article, each time stating it as fact. Yet, in reviewing the original research he cites, I feel it does not support his premise. The original paper is much more nuanced and even-handed (“certain programs increase diversity in management jobs but others do little or nothing”).

While I take issue with much of what Mr. Bregman says in his article (that there are two types of diversity training, for example: those that tell people what to say/not say, and those that break people into categories. Come on, really?), there is also learning to be gained from it. His conclusion: “We decided to [teach all managers] to listen and speak with each other — no matter the difference — which is the key to creating a vibrant and inclusive environment,” was one I could heartily agree with.

Let me focus this post on the constructive learning we might get from this article. Mr. Bregman urges the reader to do nine different things. I consolidate them, as there was quite a bit of redundancy. They are:
  1. See people as people instead of categories. Train them to work with a diversity of individuals, not with a diversity of categories. Move beyond similarity and diversity to individuality. Don’t reinforce labels, which only serve to stereotype. Reveal singularities. Help them resist the urge to think about people as categories.
    • I wholeheartedly agree! Yes!!! Please! That is exactly why Cultural Detective looks at an interactional process of how people communicate in real situations (using the Worksheet with real-life or prepared critical incidents).
    • It is why we have a package titled, Cultural Detective: Self Discovery, aiding users to create Personal Values Lenses.
    • It is why Cultural Detective: Blended Culture looks at the multicultural experience of so many of the individuals in our world today.
    • It is why our definitions of “culture” go way beyond nationality or ethnicity, and include looking at multiple influences on why we are the way we are (see Layering Lenses).
    • While we are all unique individuals, we are also all members of groups and communities, and our world views are shaped by those groups (cultures) in which we were raised. Cultures establish patterns of behavior that are historically sanctioned, so we each learn all kinds of things that seem natural, yet are culturally determined. Viewing people as unique individuals not influenced by culture is a step backwards, and not helpful in understanding others.
  2. Stop training people to be “accepting” because it doesn’t work.
    • Again I agree! If people can better understand themselves, and get a bit of insight into why others might behave the way they do, we won’t need to lecture them. These are two of the Cultural Detective Model’s three core capacities (Subjective Culture/know ourselves, Cultural Literacy/understand others’ intent, Cultural Bridge/skills and systems for leveraging similarities and differences).
  3. Teach people to have difficult conversations with a range of individuals.
    • Yes! The CD Worksheet came to life as a conflict resolution tool in multicultural workplaces in Japan in the 1980s and 90s. It emerged from diverse individuals having just such difficult conversations.
  4. Teach managers how to manage the variety of employees who report to them. Teach them how to develop the skills of their various employees.
    • While I might offer this as one reason to conduct diversity training, coaching, or mentoring, I can definitely agree with the goal. Cultural Detective offers a process for understanding, valuing and leveraging individual cultural differences. Our newest package, Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures, focuses precisely on skill development.
  5. Help them resist the urge to think about others as just like themselves.
    • Yes! Thinking about others as just like ourselves is one stage of a developmental process. Learning to distinguish the ways in which we truly are similar and different, seeing value in the similarities and the differences, and creating ways to benefit from them, is what Cultural Detective is all about.

The initial research referenced in the article, (“Diversity Management in Corporate America,” Frank Dobbin, Alexandra Kalev, and Erin Kelly, American Sociological Association, 2007), was a systemic study of 829 companies, designed to see which kinds of diversity programs work best, on average. A weakness in the original study is that it looked purely at diversity, not on inclusion or competence to manage diversity.

Having said that, the findings showed that diversity councils, diversity leaders, and mentoring programs most strongly correlate with increased management diversity, while training and diversity performance evaluations have a lower correlation. To quote the study authors, “On average, programs designed to reduce bias among managers responsible for hiring and promotion have not worked. Neither diversity training to extinguish stereotypes, nor diversity performance evaluations to provide feedback and oversight to people making hiring and promotion decisions, have accomplished much. This is not surprising in the light of research showing that stereotypes are difficult to extinguish. … Research shows that educating people about members of other groups may reduce stereotyping.”

“Optional (not mandatory) training programs and those that focus on cultural awareness (not the threat of the law) can have positive effects. In firms where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity. Managers respond negatively when they feel that someone is pointing a finger at them.”

The original article by Dobbin, Kaley, and Kelley presents three broad approaches to increasing diversity:
  • Changing the attitudes and behaviors of managers
  • Improving the social ties of women and minorities
  • Assigning responsibility for diversity to special managers and task forces

These are all situations in which the Cultural Detective Model can be used to help shape constructive interactions and manage differences effectively.

What do you think?

Mixed (&) nuts? A cross-cultural parenting perspective

A Czech and a Jamaican walk into a…. relationship. And BAM! There we have it — my reality in a nutshell. Building my relatively new multiracial, multicultural blended family has been quite the ride: challenging, but worth all the energy, inspiration and personal transformation that the experience has brought about.

The key to making things work has been clear, open and respectful communication and a willingness to self-examine and adjust, while staying authentic and standing one’s ground about the key values that must remain uncompromised. As my sweetie and I say, if he and I can’t work through our differences, how can we ever expect the rest of the world to do the same?

In our case, in addition to the divergent racial realities we experience in this society (he as a black male, and I as a white female), the contrast between our upbringings and home community cultural values is quite vast. Our parenting styles mirror those which guided each of us, and they are nearly polar opposite! The parenting of our children from previous relationships, in fact, has been the hottest point of contention.

My style veers towards the permissive side of the spectrum which gives the child the time and freedom to construct his own internal moral compass experientially through empathy (of course, not totally without guidance). This parenting tendency reflects how I was brought up and is, in a way, indicative of the degree of the privilege, which has applied to me since childhood, to be generally relatively safe, and sheltered from strife.

My partner’s parenting method is authoritarian, bent on instilling strong discipline and ethic as a means to survive and thrive in a sometimes harsh world. His is a form of tough, protective love, “a strict and clearly defined” style, as he calls it. You could see how these vastly different philosophies could drive us nuts, but we are on a journey together, determined to respect one another and find meeting places somewhere in the middle. In fact, an interesting pattern is developing where we, the parents, are adopting a little of each other’s tactics as we evaluate which are useful for our particular circumstances. In short, we are really mixing it up in the mixing bowl that our family is.

What I am most excited about is that we are learning from each other and drawing on not only the richness of what was passed down to each one of us, but also from each other’s worlds. My hope is that this, for our children, rather than confuse, will open new doors and encourage new ways of seeing the world and interacting with the people in it.

Layering Lenses: We are All Multicultural Individuals

“As an ethnic minority woman working in a large multinational firm, too often I feel like I have to learn only, to fit in. For the first time since I’ve worked here, I can now see, and explain, the unique and valuable perspective that I have to contribute as well!” she said, her face positively glowing.

The privilege of experiencing such affirming responses from Cultural Detective customers is part of what makes my job so incredibly worthwhile. This woman had just spent time creating her personal Values Lens, using Cultural Detective Self Discovery as well as a selection of Values Lenses from various other CD packages.

While the core of Cultural Detective is its process, which enables ongoing learning, collaboration and conflict resolution, the Lenses play an invaluable supporting role. As shown in the diagram above, one important role the Lenses can play is to help us realize that we are all unique, individual composites of the various cultures that have influenced and helped form us over our lifetimes. We are not “just” Chinese or Brazilian; we are much, much more than a single story, as Chimamanda Adichie so well told us.

In international cross-cultural work such as I’ve done over the past 34 years, too often people limit their definitions of “culture” to “nationality.” Culture goes way beyond nationality. Since by definition culture is the shared norms, values and behaviors of a group of people, culture can also include ethnicity, language group, physical ability or mobility, sexual orientation, or gender identity. More often than not, in my experience, while nationality(ies) tend to have a strong impact on our behavior, professional training, the culture of the organization to which the person belongs, the team culture, their socioeconomic level, generation, their faith or spirituality … all of these influence behavior as much as or more than national birth culture. It’s worthwhile for all of us to know ourselves in all the layers of our cultures: why we are the way we are, how we got to be who we are today. In this way we can better predict how we’ll respond, and better explain ourselves and our motivations to others, powerfully transforming collaboration.

People often ask me, where does personality end and culture begin? As a practitioner, my response is, “Does it really matter? Is there an objective, accurate answer?” We are all unique individuals and we are all also influenced by the multiple cultures in which we’ve grown up, been educated and trained, worked and lived. If we can keep our values and our goals clearly in mind, we can be flexible in our behavior and creative in our approaches, in order to perform at our highest and best in a broad variety of contexts.