Book Review: Why Travel Matters

51Xh7kpNNhLWhy Travel Matters: A guide to the life-changing effects of travel, by Craig Storti, published by Nicholas Brealey, 2018.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
—St. Augustine

Are you looking for a terrific graduation gift? Just published last week, this quick, thought-provoking read will encourage any beloved young adult in your life to challenge themselves to develop new perspectives and values by experiencing the world around them fully.

Why Travel Mattersis an in-depth exploration of how to ensure travel experiences transcend tourism and transform the soul. “Through the ages it has been observed that travel broadens your horizons, deepens your understanding and changes your perspective. How? What must be done when traveling to make sure these things actually happen?”

Nothing is comparable to the new life that a reflective person
experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always
myself, I believe I have changed to the very marrow of my bones.
—Goethe

The book is written in typical Craig Storti style: engaging prose, good humor, content based on sound concepts and theory, well explained with lots of stories and examples. I read it on one leg of my flight last week and have already purchased several copies for the graduates on my gift list.

Not a typical travel book, Storti talks to the reader about the consequences of the trip rather than the trip itself, the inner as well as the outer journey, using quotations, insights, reflections and commentary from travelers, travel writers, historians and literary masters including Mark Twain, DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, St. Augustine and Somerset Maugham. He reviews the history of travel, including the importance of the grand tour beginning in 16th century Europe.

He goes on to explain the rise of modern tourism in the 1840s, thanks to Thomas Cook injecting the four elements of speed, comfort, convenience and tour groups, scrubbing travel of experiences that might disturb or discomfort—and, thus, removing its transformative powers. For me, with a passion for travel, who has hired a tour guide but has yet to take a group tour, who lacks the patience to lead a group of tourists, and who values a liberal arts education heavily grounded in study abroad and cross-cultural competence, the message this book promotes is music to my ears.

They had learnt life in a different school from mine
and had come to different conclusions.
—Somerset Maugham

Storti defines tourism as escape, recreational travel during which tourists are served by locals. Tourism is relaxing; tourists see the sights. Travel, on the other hand, is arriving at a destination. Travel is educational, travelers meet with locals and are stimulated to understand.

Travelers don’t know where they’re going
and tourists don’t know where they’ve been.
—Paul Theroux

Storti weaves in recent discoveries in neuroscience and recounts powerful passages from some of the world’s greatest travel narratives to support his thesis, including the story from Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars of the first time the Moors realized the Sahara was a desert and so very dry compared to other parts of the world—after they’d travelled and seen their first waterfall (p. 35). The reader thus learns that impressions formed abroad change how we see home once we return. He presents and reframes basic intercultural concepts in the context of travel: “You don’t see what is in front of you; you see your brain’s perception of it” (p. 24), sharing with us how JG Farrell saw blood spatters on the pavement during his journey through India, when in reality the red he was seeing was betel juice (Indian Diary), or Storti’s own inability to identify what his eyes were seeing when he first glimpsed icebergs from the air.

Each act of seeing informs and enhances all subsequent acts;
the more we have seen, the more we are subsequently able to see.
Why Travel Matters, p. 32

In Chapter 4 Storti provides a table of cultural dimensions, writing that travel helps “you realize most people behave logically most of the time. You may not approve of their logic… but once you realize there are reasons behind their behavior you begin to accept that it makes sense.” He does occasionally get over-zealous, in my opinion, continuing on to optimistically tell readers, “There will never be people you cannot understand.”

Knowledge of ourselves—what we at Cultural Detective call “subjective culture,” meaning knowledge of ourselves as unique individuals influenced by multiple layers of culture—gives us choice over who and how we are in this world.

One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.
—Henry Miller

Storti concludes in Chapter 5 by providing a list of eleven best practices or tips on traveling for personal growth. These include:

  1. Travel alone.
  2. Stay out of touch/off the grid; you can’t have an experience and share it at the same time, attempts at the latter diminish the former.
  3. Collect sights not sites.
  4. Secure an introduction, a friend of a friend or colleague, to provide you a look inside the life of a local resident.
  5. Frequent places where you’ll find locals.
  6. Be a regular.
  7. Get inside someone’s home.
  8. Read about the country before and during your travel.
  9. Enjoy yourself.

Why Travel Matters includes three appendices: an interesting collection of rules for travel from other authors; a selection of quotes from people who are against travel, which feels a bit out of place or forced; and a wonderful list of the world’s great travel books—several of which I’m confident you’ll want to add to your reading list. Here’s to enjoying and benefitting from the journey!

There is all the difference in the world between behaving academically,
with the intellect, and behaving personally, intimately,
with the whole living self.
Proverbs are platitudes until you have experienced the truth of them.
—Aldous Huxley

 

Focus on Responsible Tourism

We greet hundreds of thousands of national and international visitors each year on the west coast of México where I live. For years I have promoted cultural and religious tourism to the State Secretary of Tourism, trying to encourage travelers to get beyond the beer and beaches to experience a bit of the “real Mexico.”

Recently, a colleague in Milan, Maura di Mauro, told me about a special film track she coordinated in May at the SIETAR Europa Congress in Dublin entitled, Focus on Responsible Tourism. She cautioned me about how the culture of Mursi villagers in Ethiopia was changing due to tourism. Thanks to an influx of camera-toting tourists willing to pay for photos, the villagers increasingly exaggerate their traditional practices and even falsely embellish them, to make them more attractive to visitors. She also told me about Chinese tourists descending en masse on a small village in The Netherlands. Many of the Dutch residents welcome the added economic boost such international tourism provides, but there are also downsides to such tourism and, again, changes to the host culture.

Maura got me excited and I can not WAIT to view these two films!

The first documentary Maura told me about is called Framing the Other” by Ilja Kok and Willem Timmers  (25 min, English and Mursi with English subtitles, €445 for the film in an educational package with guide and readings on tourism’s impact).The Mursi tribe lives in the basin of the Omo River in the south of the east African state of Ethiopia. The women are known for placing large plates in their lower lips and wearing enormous, richly decorated earrings. Every year hundreds of Western tourists come to see the unusually adorned natives; posing for camera-toting visitors has become the main source of income for the Mursi. To make more money, they embellish their “costumes” and finery in such a manner that less of their original authentic culture remains. The film contrasts the views of Mursi women and those of Dutch tourists preparing for a meeting. This humorous and at the same time chilling film shows the destructive impact tourism has on traditional communities. The film screening was followed by a Q&A with producer Ilja Kok. A preview follows:

The second film is called Ni Hao Holland: The Chinese are coming” by Willem Timmers (25 min, Mandarin and Dutch with English subtitles, €395 for the film in an educational package with slides and readings on understanding Chinese tourists). This is a documentary about Chinese tourists and their quest for the authentic Dutch experience. Cherry, the main character, has long dreamed of swapping her home city Beijing for the Dutch village Giethoorn. She has heard and read a lot about this mythical place. The day arrives that she and her friend hop on the plane in search of adventure. In the meantime, entrepreneurs from Giethoorn work hard behind the scenes to cater to this “Holland experience.” They want to make the most of the fast-growing flow of Chinese tourists to their village. How is this authenticity created by some and experienced by others? Below is a preview:

Maura also curated a third film for the festival at SIETAR Europa:Holi-days” by Randi Malkin Steinberger (50 min). If you’re interested in tourism and its impact on culture, it looks very worthwhile.
Why do we visit pilgrim’s places, art capitols and tourist’s paradises en masse? Traveling from Jerusalem via Florence to Las Vegas, Steinberger takes the answers to these questions to an increasingly general plane. In Jerusalem (welcoming three million visitors a year) we see tourists visiting the holy places, buying souvenirs, and putting themselves through torments that Jesus Christ once endured. What they are looking for is elucidated in short statements by pilgrims, tour operators, church leaders, guides, scientists, and souvenir vendors. All these opinions put forward a few basic ideas: tourism and commerce overgrow religion, and sacred places and objects give people the feeling that they are part of some higher order. We could look at Florence in the same way, where annually six million tourists drink in the best of Renaissance Art. The street interviews allow the same conclusion as in Jerusalem: people feel dumbfounded and overwhelmed. The countless tourists and the massive trade in souvenirs “have turned the city into a congealed moment in time.” The climax of this film journey is reached in Las Vegas. In this city, 36 million people a year enjoy replicas of famous cities and monuments, cinematic reconstructions of historical moments, spectacular shows, and dazzling gambling palaces. Here, the reality, which people also look for in Jerusalem and Florence, is better and more typical (and even more soulless) than in reality.

Printable Maps for Use in Class

World-pa_0Do you work with people from an area of the world you know little about? Most of us aren’t that great at the geography of our own area of the globe, to say nothing about knowing the names of states, cities, or rivers half a globe away! It can be awkward when chatting with a colleague in another country and they talk about their weekend travels, but you have absolutely no idea whether they went to a city, the country, mountains, or seashore. Not the best way to build credibility! Even worse if your colleague is talking about organizational expansion plans, and you don’t know whether they’re talking north, south, east, or west! Learning some basic geographical literacy can be a great help in building relationships, trust, and productivity on a team.

To that end, in trainings I sometimes print out a blank or unlabeled map of a country or region, and ask my learners to fill it in. What better way to realize how much we have to learn? I often use it as a warm-up activity: something for those who arrive early to do while waiting for the on-time arrivals; a way to engage and focus learners.

The problem is finding the maps. I want accurate maps that print in high resolution. And, ideally, I want maps with the “answers,” labeled maps, as well as the blank or unlabeled ones. I would also like them to be free of charge. Enter Arizona State University’s Geographic Alliance, which has free downloadable and printable maps that are very useful for training and education. Be sure to check them out! They have maps for all seven continents, major world regions, and quite a few countries.

India_3pages_Page_3

The Alliance’s mission is to advocate for a geographically literate society. As such, they have elementary and secondary lesson plans focusing on Arizona, the USA, and the world. How wonderful is that? Foci of the lesson plans include GeoStem, GeoMath, GeoHistory, and GeoLiteracy. If you are an educator or play around with kids, be sure to check out their cool curricula! Samples include:

  1. Can You Hear Me Now? How a Country’s Wealth Influences Communication: students use scatter plots to discover relationships between the wealth of a country and the access of its citizens to modern methods of communication.
  2. Don’t Just Escape A Problem, Shape A Solution: An NBA Star’s Efforts to Fight Ethnic Hatred: students will identify the events that led to the formation of Group 7, Vlade Divac’s organization to aid child victims of war. Students will recognize how one person is able to identify a problem and make a positive impact on the world.
  3. From Around the Corner to Around the World: How Technology Helps in the Spread of a Product: students will examine the spread of one product (Coca-Cola) as aided by advances in technology. Students will mark on their maps their estimates of the spread of a product and then mark their maps again after receiving and discussing information. Students will culminate the lesson by writing a summary paragraph.
  4. Go, Buddha, Go: Patterns in the Spread of Religions: students will gain a better understanding of patterns of cultural diffusion, while also reinforcing their knowledge of where religions began and where they spread to.
  5. If These Walls Could Talk: Seeing a Culture Through Human Features: students will identify events that shape a culture, and identify human features in their own community.

Cultural Detective is a renowned process for developing intercultural competence by better understanding oneself, others, and bridging differences so that we harvest the added value of diversity. It is immediately applicable and theoretically grounded, and combines well with a host of other tools, activities and approaches. Maps are just one of these. To read some of our other articles about maps, click here.

Free and Effective Intercultural Assessment Instruments

The Freebies page of our website contains a plethora of downloads and resources we hope you’ll use. Today I’d like to focus your attention on one small portion of that page: Assessment Instruments.

There are, fortunately, loads of terrific intercultural assessment instruments on the market today. The instruments that we share do not compete with those but, rather, fill a different niche. There are just four of them, but they are important, IMHO.

  1. First, and most important, is the Diversity Collegium’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks. With contributions from 95 Expert Panelists including me, this complimentary download is a tremendous resource for any organization or community aiming to improve the quality and caliber of its diversity and inclusion.
  2. Second, but also of great interest to our community, are the two Cultural Detective Competence Assessments. These tools are still in beta-testing and require your use and refinement, please! If you use Cultural Detective and would like to conduct pre- and post-tests to verify how well your learners have integrated the methodology into their daily thoughts and habits, give these instruments a go. And be sure to provide us your feedback and improvements/refinements!
  3. The final assessment tool is a quiz on world maps. It could be useful in training, or for your personal professional development. Maps obviously reflect the world views of their creators, and this quiz is aimed to help users realize that.

There are loads of other complimentary resources available from our site. Please put them to good and frequent use! Together we can make a difference, promoting respect, collaboration, innovation and justice.

Complimentary Resources

Last month I shared with you the newest page on our website, a list of some of the Free Resources we are eager to have you use. In that post I focused on Tools for Training and Education.

In this second installment, I’d like to focus on the resources we have to help you reflect on the approaches you take and the biases inherent in them. You’ll find them in the section entitled, Resources and Articles, and they include:

  1. A terrific piece written by Peter Isackson called “Beyond Cultural Dimensions.” Dimensions of culture are superb tools for understanding and comparing cultures using universal categories. They also, as does any tool, have downsides. Peter discusses both. If this topic is of interest, you may also want to register for our complimentary webinar, “How is Cultural Detective Different from Other Intercultural Tools?
  2. A brilliant article by Cultural Detective Malaysia co-author Asma Abdullah, “Indigenous Contributions to Global Management.”
  3. Links to a series of articles on food, language and values, including Chinese, French and Japanese. Perhaps you’d like to add one of your food fetish languages to the mix? Send your article to us and we’ll consider it!
  4. The inside scoop on “Tiger Moms,” written by the co-author of Cultural Detective South Korea, Eun Young Kim.
  5. Free downloads of several (expensive) journal articles, including:
    1. Productive Behaviors of Global Business Teams from the International Journal of Intercultural Relations
    2. Three entries in the SAGE Encyclopedia for Intercultural Competence

Please use these complimentary resources frequently and well, so that together we can develop intercultural competence in our organizations and communities, thereby building respect, understanding, collaboration and justice!

Free Resources, all in one place

Freebies.jpgCultural Detective is very committed to building respect, collaboration, equity and justice in our world by developing intercultural competence. To that end, we publish extremely effective and affordable materials, we conduct an extensive series of free webinars, and we frequently share activities, designs and resources on this blog.

In order to make it easier for members of our community to access these complimentary resources, we’ve done our best to gather most of them into one place: the “Freebies” section of our website. Gathering all of them is rather untenable, as we’ve been giving stuff away since 2004, but if you find something on our sites that you feel deserves a listing in the Freebies section, please let us know.

I plan to do a series of blog posts about this new page, and I’ll start at the bottom, Tools for Training and Education. There you will find some truly incredible things.

  1. The Four Phase Model for Task Accomplishment in multicultural teams, taken from the classic Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. It provides a proven model for using differences as assets that combines well with and supplements your use of Cultural Detective.
    There are an additional three articles on ways to use Ecotonos in various settings, including in a business class, for conflict resolution, and in a science laboratory.
  2. A terrific article by one of the intercultural field’s most respected researcher/practitioners, Jackie Wasilewski, titled “Collide-o-culture or Kaleid-o-culture? GPS for Human Beings.” If you haven’t read it, you should.
  3. An article written by Barbara F. Schaetti, Heather Robinson, and myself on our go-to approach for developing sustainable intercultural ability, EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence.
  4. Powerpoint slides and information on Interculturalidad in Latin America, and how it compares to similar concepts in North America, Europe and Asia, written by Adriana Medina-López-Portillo.
  5. Link to download a terrific learning game on the refugee and migrant experience, developed by Caritas France and called “On the Road with Migrants.” The game is available in French, English, German, Greek, Italian, and very soon in Portuguese and Spanish.

I am proud of the generosity of our team of authors and our community of certified facilitators and users, to help us make these tools available to all of you. Please use them frequently and well. Together we can promote respect, understanding, collaboration and justice!

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language

Language and culture are so very closely related and intertwined. Many say we can’t truly understand a culture without speaking the language. Others say we can’t effectively use a language without knowing the culture; without cultural context we are “fluent fools.”

Multilinguals know that our behaviors and ways of thinking change when we speak various languages, but do our morals also vary? A few fascinating studies have been conducted recently that shed light on how our moral compasses shift when we operate in different languages. English-French-Czech speaker Julie Sedivy summarizes the results of such research very ably in an article in Scientific American.

She reports that one study, about hypothetical responses to a trolley accident (should we sacrifice one person to save five?), shows that our moral decision-making shifts when we are speaking a language that is not a native one. A second research project, this one involving participants’ responses to morally reprehensible behavior (sex with a sibling, eating one’s pet after it has died), had similar findings: actions are judged less wrong when read in a non-native language.

Why is this? One hypothesis is that when we speak a non-native language, we are more deliberate; we circumvent our quick “gut” reaction and consider the greatest good for the greatest number. Another possibility is that our childhood language(s) are filled with more emotional connections than are academically acquired languages; thus, our responses are different, depending on the language in which we are operating.

Bilinguals, for example, are more likely to recall a memory if they are prompted in the language in which the event took place, according to one study. Yet another research project went deeper, showing that the emotional response to taboo words—and especially to reprimands (so common in childhood)—were statistically stronger in one’s native language. Study participants often reported that they “heard” the reprimands in the “voice” of a close relative.

A study published in the journal Cognition showed that people placed greater weight on outcomes and less on intentions when making moral judgments in a non-native language. Examples in this study included good intentions/bad outcomes, such as giving a homeless person a new jacket, and then the recipient gets beaten up when someone steals it from him; and good outcomes spurred by dubious motives, such as a family adopting a disabled child in order to receive money from the government. These results would seem to support the idea that people have more muted emotional responses/less empathy or sympathy in a non-native language.

None of the studies, of course, show us what a multilingual person’s “true” moral self is. Julie’s conclusion summarizes this paradox:

“Is it my moral memories, the reverberations of emotionally charged interactions that taught me what it means to be ‘good’? Or is it the reasoning I’m able to apply when free of such unconscious constraints? Or perhaps, this line of research simply illuminates what is true for all of us, regardless of how many languages we speak: that our moral compass is a combination of the earliest forces that have shaped us and the ways in which we escape them.”

Cultural Detective will not teach you a foreign language, but using it will help you to get into the mindset of those you work with, live in community with, or love. Using Cultural Detective Self Discovery will deepen your understanding of your personal values and moral guidelines, while Cultural Detective Blended Culture can help you understand how our values and moral compass shift when we define ourselves as a mix of ethnicities, races, religions, or nationalities. Exploring Cultural Detective Global Business Ethics allows us to sharpen our understanding of ethics and morals across cultures, while Cultural Detective Global Teamwork enables us to navigate and bridge the differences. All of these packages are among the 67 packages included in any subscription to Cultural Detective Online. At just $35US/user, it is an incredible value on the investment, offering personalized coaching and group collaboration. Learn more about a subscription today!

Emotions: An Exercise and a Tool

continents

Continents of Emotion

Emotional intelligence has been a major buzz word the last few years. Deservedly so; in this highly polarized world of ours emotional intelligence might be more valuable than just about any other intelligence. Obviously, interculturally competent people need to have emotional intelligence. We need to be able to understand why we respond the way we do, and channel our emotions in constructive ways. We need to be able to not get upset just because someone else does, and remain committed over the long term.

It has long interested me, then, since emotions are so important to our happiness and success in life, why we don’t we, as average people, know more about them? How many words for different emotions can you list? Happy, sad, joyful, loving, aggravated… Take a moment to try it and see.

  1. Make a list of terms for different emotions. Capture quickly as many as you can.
  2. Organize the words you listed into major categories of human emotion, and give each of the categories a name.
  3. Rank the words you’ve listed within each category in order of intensity.
  4. Finally, link the categories of emotions to the behaviors they can motivate.

Now ask your family members, friends, or team members to do the same. My guess is you’ll find some key commonalties and some significant differences. Definitely you will be able to have a fruitful discussion about emotions and how they are interpreted and expressed across your various cultural groups.

The exercise above emerged after I came upon a resource some months ago that I have found useful in helping me reflect on and distinguish the emotions in my life. It’s called the Atlas of Emotions, and it’s a free online tool.

The tool begins with five “Continents of Emotion:” Sadness, Fear, Enjoyment, Anger, and Disgust. I must say, I don’t like the ratio of four out of five negative emotions, but… Clicking on any continent tells you a core motivator of that emotion.

Next you can go into “States of Emotion;” there are many states for each core emotion, and the tool ranks them in representative intensity. Third, you can click on “Actions of Emotion,” where we see what type of behavior we might take in response to the various emotions we feel. This to me is an especially powerful cross-cultural piece. The tool then takes us into the “Triggers of Emotion.” Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

“Moods of Emotion” are described as “longer-lasting cousins of the emotion, that cause the related emotion to be felt more frequently and intensely. It is not always apparent what triggers a mood.”

Finally, according to the tool, “A calm, balanced frame of mind is necessary to evaluate and understand our changing emotions. Calmness ideally is a baseline state, unlike emotions, which arise when triggered and then recede.”

Let me say that the part about the Atlas of Emotions that quickly concerned me is in the biography of the lead psychologist behind the tool, Paul Ekman. He apparently “demonstrated the universality of facial expression of emotion, mapping all 43 muscle groups used in facial expression.” I have not taken the time to review themes recent literature on this subject, but if you are reading this blog, you no doubt are well aware that facial expression and expression of emotion are far from universal. I welcome anyone current on the subject to please enlighten us in the comments below.

Despite this misgiving, I find the tool quite useful. It can be used for powerful personal reflection and learning, and it can be a terrific tool for discussing and reflecting on emotions across cultures—to understand more deeply, with more distinctions. I can see its use in conjunction with Cultural Detective Self Discovery, Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures, or any CD Worksheet analysis of critical incidents.

In the end, if you use a tool like this simply to spark thinking, reflection, learning, and discussion, then the thoroughness, accurateness, or universality of the tool doesn’t matter that much. If you give this exercise a go, please come back and share your experience!

Immigration Syllabus

aaia_crop

Today, immigration historians from across the USA launched #ImmigrationSyllabus, a website and educational resource to help the public understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates. Created in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and made available through the University of Minnesota Libraries, #ImmigrationSyllabus is a tool for teaching, learning and advocacy. The full 15-week syllabus with weekly themes, primary sources and multimedia is available online at immigrationsyllabus.umn.edu.

“I am proud to be collaborating with colleagues across the United States in this important initiative,” said Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the U of M. “With current debates and federal actions on immigration, understanding the historical context of immigration in this nation is more vital than ever.”

The syllabus seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship. The syllabus follows a chronological overview of U.S. immigration history, but it also includes thematic weeks that cover salient issues in political discourse today such as xenophobia, deportation policy, and border policing. Listing essential topics and readings and linking to historical documents and multimedia sources, #ImmigrationSyllabus helps answer important questions such as:

  • Who has come to the United States and why?
  • Why has immigration been such a hotly debated topic then – and now?
  • When and why did the U.S. start building walls and banning and deporting immigrants?
  • What were the consequences of those policies?
  • What’s “new” about new immigration to the United States?
  • What lessons might we learn as we move forward?

Part of a recent academic movement to respond to pressing current events, the #ImmigrationSyllabus follows the #TrumpSyllabus, which helped readers understand Donald Trump’s political success during the 2016 Presidential campaign; the #FergusonSyllabus, which inspired conversations about race, violence and activism in classrooms; and the#StandingRockSyllabus, which heightened awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline and placed the #NoDAPL protests into historical context.

Virtual Teamwork in Latin America

iceberg-report-cover

Our friends over at Iceberg in Buenos Aires have completed one of the first surveys I’ve seen on global virtual teams in Latin America. I’d like to congratulate them and thank them for this effort!

An astounding 88% of respondents to the survey confirm that the advantages of working in a global team outweigh the challenges! Their major reason? The diversity of perspectives, knowledge, and expertise among team members, which in their experience can generate innovative solutions and outstanding results.

Over 30% of the respondents reported spending more than half their work days interacting with colleagues around the globe; another 56% spend between 10-50% of their work days interacting with global clients. 68% of their global teams get together face-to-face at least once a year but, surprisingly, they prefer video conferences over live meetings! Even though respondents view video conferencing as their best coordination tool, only 32% of them use it in all their virtual meetings.

Survey results showed that diversity on these teams arose due to functional necessity, rather than because of its inherent benefits. Over half of those responding report their companies have lost opportunities due to cross-cultural misunderstandings. Despite this fact, only 21% of them report having received training to improve their virtual team’s productivity! Even sadder to me is that 53% of those who have received training did so in a webinar, 32% via e-learning, and only 16% had the opportunity to attend a face-to-face training or team-building session. Come on, Latin America! OJO! We’ve got work to do!

What did the respondents say is most complex about working in a global virtual team? First is including colleagues that don’t participate, then sending messages that are adequately understood, following up on what teammates are working on, and achieving agreements and decisions. 69% said the lack of co-location makes it more challenging to create trusting relationships, 68% said the distance makes it difficult to understand the context of colleagues’ communication, and 60% noted that distance can therefore generate conflict.

What qualities do they feel are most important for success on a global team? Communicating with clarity, adapting to cultural differences, and demonstrating a collaborative spirit.

Below is a visual that Iceberg created to summarize their findings.

14de6cbb-b9c1-4a0b-a1c1-93f3dd42d2c8.png

While there were only 86 respondents from four countries included in the survey, it is a good start. Respondents were representative of what we might expect in Latin America: 54% work for enterprises with fewer than 5000 employees, and 25% work for organizations with over 20,000 employees worldwide. 27% of the respondents were manager level, with 16% at director level. Most were from the IT industry, followed by consulting, education, and consumer products. The full Iceberg report (in Spanish) can be downloaded here.

Overall, the sample is fairly small and rather skewed, however it is useful for gathering ideas on how to make our virtual teams more effective, and some of the uniqueness we might find with teams and team members based in Latin America. If you work with global or virtual teams, be sure to check out Cultural Detective Global Teamwork, a powerful developmental competence tool that is included in every subscription to Cultural Detective Online.