Turning the Page on Intercultural Research

Interculturalists are familiar with the range of approaches to culture in the social sciences and the intercultural field itself. Many of us started with the rather positivist and essentialist studies that provided initial insights, first best guesses into the behavior of cultural groups, but were also a slippery slope in the direction of bias and stereotyping. Subsequently, we have been turning our attention toward the iconic, memes, linguistic, performative and social constructionist approaches and storytelling as elements and theories for understanding and using culture, as well as teaching about it and applying it to the challenges we face. These can often show up as disparate and unintegrated perspectives.
Mai Nguyen’s book could best be described as “turning the page” on intercultural research, learning and practice, not because it negates these earlier and continuing efforts, but because it puts them into perspective. It clarifies both where they may remain useful and where they no longer serve us, or even fail us in the light of what neuroscientific research and cognitive science are revealing about the integral nature of human beings and how we function. We have landed on a “fresh page” in the face of long centuries of dichotomist thinking and credence that divided us into mind vs. meat, spirit vs. matter, body vs. soul, and so forth.
This can be hard to digest, but accepting our human integrity opens the door to a more holistic view of the genesis, development and creation of the elements of culture in and around us. Culture is the result and the agent in our unique capacity to create what we need on all levels to survive and succeed in existing and newly developing environments. It is the unique, agile, adaptive human capability that has largely taken over from, though it interacts with our slow genetic evolutionary development found in us and in the rest of nature. This in turn offers us new levels of awareness and self-understanding, as well as fresh and effective ways of managing self, relationships, communities, organizations, commerce and the ecological environment we are immersed in. In the words of the author, “Culture is not just socially learned, but geographically influenced, genetically inherited, and neurally enabled.”
This is a large book with an enormous range of content, providing insight, consequences and tools for management of organizations, leadership, collaboration and even marketing, along with solid documentation and references. But it is far more than an academic publication or a business book, as it is able to identify the role of and integrate neuroscience into how we see globalization and manage diversity, how we motivate self and others and how we communicate and negotiate. The agenda is formidable. Going forward, there is much to unpack, explore and try out as we root ourselves in our new sense of human integrity. At the same time, we become alert to the power of investigative neurobiology and psychological ventures that will more and more involve artificial intelligence and elements that have already begun to “hack” our human systems. We see a potential for great good, health and new potential as well as possibilities for manipulation, control and exploitation. As we navigate in both opportune and dangerous times, the understanding and support found in these pages make the book a “must read” for opening avenues for reworking our social, personal and work lives.
With the insights and tips furnished by the author, one can easily implement insightful approaches to communication and negotiation, creating new levels of understanding and more effective decisions and settlements. For example, one highly functional model, STREAP-Be, offers a path that addresses the fundamental aspects of a change process. The acronym stands for: Safety, Trigger, Reward, Emotion, Alignment, People, and Behavior. It applies neuroscientific savvy, instructions for creating the trust, the actions, the motivation, the essential human reactions and social behaviors needed for solid progress in new directions. The model contains step-by-step the path toward effective change by paying careful attention to the simple human dynamics of perception, feeling, framing ideas, releasing energy, telling and aligning personal and cultural stories that provide a common context for facing and meeting a change challenge. STREAP-Be delivers the antidote to the lazy brain’s need to wake up, to its “control freak” resistance to the unfamiliar and the uncertain, and to its slothful tendency to replicate the past rather than innovating a desirable future.
When approaching culture as we seek to manage diversity, the book provides two very essential perspectives. First, we need to develop contextual awareness about how culture is created, used and interpreted. Context, not culture itself, is the software of the mind, the operational environment of culture’s interpretation, application and development. Secondly, in approaching intercultural learning and cultural competence, we need to assume a positive rather than a problematic perspective, curiosity rather than fear of mistakes. Culture, seen as an iceberg, is cold, formidable, a hazard. It is easy to get frozen into the do’s and don’ts and catastrophic what if’s, rather than connecting via our sameness while recognizing difference as a trove of treasures to be explored, a bowl of cherries to be shared.

4 Reasons to Add EPIC to Your Toolbox

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Many thanks to Debbie Bayes, Intercultural Consultant and Trainer at culturecrux.org, for this guest blog post.

I recently had the chance to use EPIC (Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence) for the first time with a group of people who train student leaders in a university setting. There were several surprises along the way… all of them good!

  1. Reasonably quick prep to put together a quality training event—The structure of the EPIC process, which brings together both Cultural Detectiveand Personal Leadership methods,made it possible to plan a quality training event in a short amount of time. It saved me hours of work and was a breeze to facilitate!
  2. It was helpful to have the EPIC experience to look back on when going over IDI results after the training—This particular group had asked each member to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) prior to the EPIC training. As I met with individuals to go over their IDI results following the training, I found that having the common EPIC experience to look back on provided many concrete examples that I could use to illustrated ideas that are sometimes difficult for people to grasp. Concepts like the limitations of Minimization and the value of working towards Acceptance were far easier to explain because moving through the EPIC process so clearly and tangibly demonstrated both.
  3. EPIC worked well with people at all levels—Because I had IDI results on the group before doing the EPIC training, I had some sense of people’s abilities prior to meeting with them. Participants in the group ranged from Denial to Acceptance. It can be difficult to plan an event for a group that has such a wide range of abilities. I was pleased to find that everyone in the group was engaged and interested throughout the training.
  4. EPIC was fun and eye-opening—The two most frequent comments I received on the EPIC training in the weeks following were that it was both fun and eye-opening. The training challenged the participants, caused them to see both themselves and cultural others in new ways, and inspired them to press on to learn more. And all the while, they were having fun!

I expect to use EPIC frequently in the year ahead. It’s a great tool to have in the box!

En el Recorrido con los Migrantes

migrants-2-7123cCaritas France has a terrific learning game about migrants that is available in several languages; we’ve reported about this learning game before.

Well over a year ago Cultural Detective led a wonderful team of talented people who voluntarily translated “On the Road with Migrants” into Spanish. We did our best to keep the language neutral, universal, international. Such is not so easy in  Spanish, as you may know, but we did our best.

Caritas has not yet uploaded that version, but you can download it here. It is free to use, though you will need to print out the game boards and cards, and purchase game pieces.

Thank you for helping Caritas and us to help this world develop beyond “tolerance” and into inclusion and cross-cultural justice, equity and collaboration!

 

More Excellent Free Gifts

I just downloaded a wonderful high-resolution jpg of an equal-area projection Peters Map of the world for FREE thanks to Bob Abramms and our friends at ODT Maps, and you can, too!

The Peters Map jpg is branded with the Doctors Without Borders logo, but, hey, you can print it out most any size you want; it is a terrific asset to a classroom, training room, meeting room, etc. Click here to download your copy.

While you’re at it, you can also download a Hobo-Dyer equal-area projection map via this link. This one is not quite as usable, as it has the Carter Center data all over it. But, it is high-resolution and free.

In Bob’s and ODT’s incredible retirement generosity, they have uploaded other free things you can get your hands on:

We are not retiring BUT, as always, Cultural Detective offers a huge selection of freebies, accessible and downloadable anytime here.

Bless you for helping build intercultural competence, respect, justice, equity, inclusion and collaboration in this polarized world of ours! You are doing vital work.

New Models of Intercultural Competency

Cultural Detective Ukraine co-author Elena Shliakhovchuk has just released an extensive literature review of “cultural literacy” that clarifies and critically assesses the term’s history, evolution, and modern meaning.

“An analysis and summary … of common trends for a new set of skills and competencies necessary for success in the twenty-first century, studied by policy-making institutions like UNESCO, by education institutions like the British Council, by multinational corporations like IBM and Google, and by influencer organisations like LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum.”

Entitled “After Cultural Literacy: New Models of Intercultural Competency for Life and Work in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) World”, the article is published in Educational Review, 2019. It is a must-read for any organization desiring to educate and train capable leaders, workers, citizens, and community members, as well as for interculturalists and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioners who seek to build the business case for the work we do. Whether you work in education, business, or in the public sector, with refugees, migration or teams, in economic development or sustainability, this article will prove useful.

“Even a brief analysis of global tendencies – as increased international interconnectedness, the rapid rate of urbanisation, technological advances, increased migration, and the devastation of natural resources – makes it evident that labour markets are increasingly demanding workers with advanced skills. Workplace changes, the transnational movement of refugees, economic migrants, professional and expert service providers, and student exchange programmes created a strong and urgent need for people to learn to live together in this diverse world. Consequently, cultural literacy has come into sharper focus.”

I am proud that the Cultural Detective project has made a huge contribution to the development of intercultural competence in this world of ours. The learning that authors gain while writing their Cultural Detective packages in collaboration with our staff and five to six teams of other-culture authors, and the transformation that the method and materials create with the guidance and facilitation of our expert and dedicated community of practitioners, truly astound me. I’ve always said that products are like children, they take on lives of their own, and Cultural Detective is no exception; it is used in places and ways I could never have imagined, by people I’m proud to work with, and with results that help bridge the polarized divides in contemporary society. This article by Elena Shliakhovchuk, a member of our distinguished authoring team, shows what a fine mind and a determined heart can do to make a difference. Below I will provide a few quotes from her treatise, in hopes that it will pique your curiosity to read the article in full and continue your learning.

The Business Case for Cultural Literacy
(And the use of Cultural Detective, which is proven to develop these competencies.)

  1. “The spread of literacy in the world and the inclusion of the ability to create, consume and communicate different materials associated with various contexts in the modern understanding of literacy, inclines us to be cooperative and more tolerant to a different other. Harvard psychologist Pinker links widespread literacy to the reduction in people’s “taste for cruelty” and the widening of the circle of tolerance towards others, thus empowering ‘the empathy escalator’.” (2011 Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York, NY: Viking.
  2. “Cultural literacy has begun to be seen as a “modus operandi” (Ochoa, McDonald, & Monk, 2016 García Ochoa, G., McDonald, S., & Monk, N. (2016). Embedding cultural literacy in higher education: A new approach. Intercultural Education, 27(6), 546559[Google Scholar]) that “highlights communication, comparison and critique, bringing ideas together in an interdisciplinary and international collaboration” (Segal, Kancewicz-Hoffman, Landfester, 2013 Segal, N., Kancewicz-Hoffman, N., & Landfester, U. (2013). Cultural literacy in Europe today (Vol. January).  [Google Scholar], p. 4). Furthermore, Cultural Literacy is claimed to have the same implications as Opportunity Cost in economics and “can be applied and verified through everyday experience, in any and every context” (Ochoa et al., 2016).
  3. “Similarly, Rosen argues that management and technology alone will not give economies supremacy, but populations will also need to be culturally literate, “Culture is no longer an obstacle to be overcome. Rather, it is a critical lever for competitive advantage”. He postulates that tomorrow’s leaders will strive to be culturally wise by appreciating similarities and differences between peoples, companies, and countries; and they will know that superficial understanding negatively impacts businesses (Rosen, 2000Rosen, R. (2000). Global literacies: Lessons on business leadership and national cultures: a landmark study of CEOs from 28 countries (1st ed.). Simon & Schuster. [Google Scholar]).”
  4. “UNESCO Global Citizenship Education (2014 Global Citizenship Education: an emerging perspective; Technical Consultation on Global Citizenship Education. (2014).  [Google Scholar]) and the UNESCO “The Education 2030. Incheon Declaration Framework for Action” (2016 Incheon declaration framework for action for the implementation of sustainable development goal 4 ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. [Google Scholar]) underline the importance of citizenship education and the empowerment of citizens to resolve global challenges and to contribute to a peaceful, inclusive and tolerant world. UNESCO’s “The Hangzhou Declaration Placing Culture at the Heart of Sustainable Development Policies” (2013 UNESCO. The Hangzhou declaration placing culture at the heart of sustainable development policies[Google Scholar]) emphasises that cultural literacy is an integral part of quality education and plays a vital role in the promotion of inclusive and unbiased societies.”

Recent Leading Research on Cultural Literacy
“Over the last decade, reputable institutions… have been analysing the skill set required for a successful specialist in the twenty-first century, concluding that intercultural skills are in high demand.

  1. Oxford Economics, 2012 Oxford Economics. (2012). Global Talent 2021. How the new geography of talent will transform human resource strategies. Executive summary[Google Scholar].
  2. British Council, 2013 British Council. (2013). Culture at work. The value of intercultural skills in the workplace. [Google Scholar].
  3. World Economic Forum, 2016 World Economic Forum. (2016). New vision for education: Fostering social and emotional learning through technology. [Google Scholar].
  4. The latest LinkedIn Workplace Learning Trends Report indicates that soft skills make up the essential skill set that should be cultivated through talent-development programmes. Ninety-two percent of executives name soft skills as equally or more important than technical skills, with 64 percent of responders highlighting the importance of communication skills and 55 percent collaboration skills, confirming that effective communication with others (in its broad meaning) is key to success in the twenty-first century (LinkedIn, 2018 Linkedin, L. co. (2018). Workplace learning & development report 2018 | LinkedIn learning. Retrieved March 21, 2018. [Google Scholar].
  5. P21 Partnership for twenty-first Century Learning amongst education, business, community, and government leaders developed P21’s Framework for twenty-first Century Learning to define and summarise the skills and knowledge students required at work, for life and citizenship in the 2020s. The Life and Career Skills category includes Social and Cross-Cultural Skills as required for navigating complicated life and work environments (P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning, 2016 P21 framework for 21st century learning 21st century student outcomes and support systems framework for 21st century learning. (2016).  [Google Scholar]).

An Updated Model of Cultural Literacy
“Cultural literacy plays an essential role in building social inclusion, promoting economic development, coping with the opportunities and challenges surrounding globalisation and innovation, and fostering sustainability.

Based on the literature reviewed, in order to meet the unique demands of global interconnectedness in a culturally mindful way, the following competencies and skills of the updated cultural literacy model should be cultivated (Figure 3):”

cedr_a_1566211_f0003_oc.jpg

It is worth noting here that regular use of Cultural Detective develops all of these competencies.

Give Elena’s article a read, and then probe more deeply into a couple of the references she links to. You will be glad you did.

 

“THE best simulation for cross-cultural teaming”

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You may have heard of Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Culturesyou know it’s very well regarded and people highly recommend it. But do you know how it works and why it might be useful to you?

Ecotonos is for people engaged in intercultural affairs—both those who have not had significant experience collaborating in a multicultural context and also for those who wish to analyze and further develop their abilities. Ecotonos can be used with both domestic and international multicultural groups to help participants develop skills and strategies for participating effectively in multicultural environments—for sharing information, making decisions, managing projects, building community, working in and leading teams, resolving conflict, and creating solutions.

Designed to be used with between eight and fifty participants, Ecotonos requires at least ninety minutes to conduct: forty-five minutes for the simulation itself, and another 45 for the debriefing. While this is longer than some simulations, it is an investment well worth making. Rather than just experiencing cultural differences, Ecotonos helps participants learn to observe how they make decisions and solve problems, and helps them develop skills and strategies for working more effectively across differences. The simulation can also be used several times—each time feeling like a different game—so that participants can hone their abilities.

Simulation participants create their own cultures using a set of rule cards provided. Rules are relatively ambiguous, so participants are free to create cultures with which they are comfortable. Following the agreed-upon rules for their culture, participants create a myth symbolizing their culture, often a creation myth. Time is then allowed for participants to become familiar with their new culture (acculturation), before they begin work on the same assigned task (build a bridge, design a neighborhood…) or case study within their own cultural group. Shortly thereafter, the groups mix (according to a prearranged plan) and participants continue their work—while maintaining their own cultural rules and behaviors. Of course, as in all simulations, the debriefing is the most important part of the activity, as that is where we make sense of what we have experienced—where the learning occurs. Ecotonos‘ debriefing is unique in that learners chart, graph or draw the process they used, an extremely powerful method that reveals how cultural traits and values were utilized or ignored, how information was shared and decisions were made.

Ecotonos is an extremely rich simulation because participants engage in a dynamic experience 
that vividly illustrates the strengths and limits of collaboration across cultures. It can be played multiple times with the same group for developmental learning since there is no “trick” to the game; this enables participants to practice and improve their collaborative abilities; a different task or case study can be used each time Ecotonos is conducted, along with different rule cards, which makes each play a unique experience.

In 2015, in a study published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management (Vol. 26, No. 15, pages 1995-2014) by Joost JLE Bücker and Hubert Korzilius, the researchers found that “Ecotonos increases the ability to reflect on cross-cultural interactions, and stimulates interest in intercultural behavior and practicing cross-cultural relevant behavior.”

proposed interior arrangement

Ecotonos comes with an instruction manual (facilitator guide), cultural name buttons, 30 sets of rule cards, three case studies and three team tasks—all in a small, hard plastic case for easy transport. The detailed and extensive facilitator guide includes set-up, process, and debrief instructions to complete the simulation in two hours; explanation of the intercultural theory inherent in the simulation; full instructions for using the various handouts on intercultural collaboration; and sections on adapting Ecotonos to a variety of cultures and situations.

One of the best aspects of Ecotonos is that it’s so affordable. You can have hundreds of executives or students play this simulation for years, sharing it between departments, for the one-time investment of US$249. Want to know more? Please contact Cultural Detective via email or telephone +1-913-901-0243, or order it via our website. Together with your help we can build the intercultural competence that is so sorely lacking in our world today!

Excellent Free Book Download

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How we see the world is greatly influenced by the tools we use to see it—there is great power in maps! Maps shape how we see the world and our own role in it. Maps are tools of analysis and action; they can be incredible tools for interculturalists committed to diversity, sustainability, and social action. Cultural Detective has written many articles about maps, because we believe our profession demands that we understand the pros and cons of different maps, manage their biases, and help learners to do the same.

Thanks to the generosity of Bob Abramms and our friends at ODT Maps, you can download the third edition of Seeing Through Maps: Many Ways to See the World by Dennis Wood, Ward Kaiser and Bob Abramms, for free through 28 February 2019. Use the coupon code STM228 when you check out. There are also free learning objectives teachers available for download on the same page.

Enjoy! Thank you for helping us spread intercultural understanding, respect, equity and justice in this world of ours.

Excellent Free Resource

cds.amazon_1024x1024Now through 30 April download the award-winning Cultural Diversity Sourcebook for free using the coupon code “Sourcebook”, thanks to our friend at ODT, Bob Abramms, and Cultural Detective author extraordinaire, George Simons. Originally published in 1996, it was put into e-book form last year and remains a treasure-trove of excellent material. An edited volume of scholarly articles, classic essays, best practices and quotes from popular culture, poetry and music, I think you’ll find it well worth your time. Thank you for your generosity, gentlemen!

Intercultural Training Toolkit: Activities for Developing Intercultural Competence for Virtual and Face-to-face Teams

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We are delighted to share the news of a newly published volume of collective knowledge from SIETAR Europa (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research): the Intercultural Training Toolkit: Activities for Developing Intercultural Competence for Virtual and Face-to-face Teams.

“Inspired by many discussions in the SIETAR network, the idea of publishing a collection of SIETAR intercultural training tools came to light. …our intention was to create a consolidated resource of SIETAR members’ favourite and most effective tools and methodologies” according to the book’s editors. They continue:

“Every moment in a training setting is an opportunity for those in the room to reflect on and develop their own intercultural competencies. How we learn about navigating culture is shaped by our professions, travels, and personal interests. With this publication we want to support your learning environment by publishing selected go-to training activities from SIETARians for virtual or face-to-face teams that integrate modern technologies and emerging practice styles with materials and instructions.”

This practical, useful collection of 29 activities is organized into three sections:

  1. Opening and Warm-up Activities
  2. Feedback & Debriefing Activities
  3. Teambuilding Activities

Two of the Teambuilding Activities are authored by Dianne Hofner Saphiere and explore ways to effectively use Cultural Detective. The first provides step-by-step instructions on how to use stories and critical incidents to explore and bridge cultural differences,. The second focuses on developing and using Personal Values Lenses as a method of increasing cultural self-awareness, teaming and collaboration.

The Intercultural Training Toolkit is available as a very reasonably priced ebook via Amazon; hard copies are currently available via Books on Demand or in mainland Europe through national amazon.com sites. We hope you will take the opportunity to check out this new collection of ready-to-use intercultural training activities.

Hansen, Elisabeth/Torkler, Ann-Kristin/Covarrubias Venegas, Barbara (eds.): Intercultural Training Tool Kit: Activities for Developing Intercultural Competence for Virtual and Face-to-face Teams, SIETAR Europa Intercultural Book Series, 2018. 76 pages. ISBN 9783752810073.

Excellent New Classroom Tool & a Great Read!

Book Cover

We are thrilled to announce that this award-winning volume is newly updated with application questions for each chapter and fully integrates with your Cultural Detective Online subscription! Purchase it now for your classroom or for holiday gifting.

Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures, 2nd edition, by Joe Lurie, Cross-Cultural Communications Trainer, Speaker and Emeritus Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s International House

What do your experiences tell you when you’re in line behind a bald man: Is he a militant? A monk? A punk? A neo-Nazi?… Or perhaps a cancer patient?

With YouTube, tweets and fake news instantly crossing cultures without context in this time of globalization, it’s essential to understand the actual meanings and intentions behind words, images and actions that seem abnormal or provocative. In line, online and off-line, we’re meeting many more “strangers.” There’s new wisdom in the Lebanese proverb: “Every stranger is a blind man.” And so, we face an urgency to teach students and professionals far more about other cultures and give them the intercultural skills to navigate globalization’s turbulent waters. That’s why, in collaboration with Cultural Detective, I’ve greatly expanded the first award-winning edition of Perception And Deception, A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures.

Think globalization is bringing us closer together? Think again. With refugees crossing cultures without preparation on either side, the dangers of intercultural miscommunication are intensifying. Why do many refugees traumatized by violence find Western “talk therapy” alienating? As a Syrian refugee confided, “I can’t share my painful, humiliating stories with a stranger.” A Sudanese refugee was diagnosed “psychotic” because she seemed to be talking to herself; her Boston psychiatrist was unaware that in her world, conversing with ancestors is normal. Some French see a Muslim woman in a burkina—a full body suit—as oppressed or as a potential terrorist. Yet the woman considers her burkini liberating, because she can swim modestly. Recently, a UC Berkeley student with a Spanish last name was snidely asked when she’d return to Mexico. Her angered response, “I’m from Kansas and I don’t speak Spanish.”

To enable use of the well-received stories in the first edition as springboards for developing intercultural competence, I’ve added a broad array of interactive questions and activities at the end of each chapter in this expanded new edition, as well as a brand new chapter, “Globalization and its Disconnects—Convergence Without Context.” It focuses in large part on the spiraling misunderstandings across cultures, especially in the worlds of refugees, religion, and responses to technology.

To better cope with the disrupting forces of globalization, each chapters’ questions and activities are designed to develop and heighten cultural self-awareness and sensitivity to others, among students, individuals and groups of all backgrounds and professions. Some of the included interactive, personalized activities are available for those who take advantage of Cultural Detective‘s superb, research-based, internationally tested online platform providing access to nearly 70 packages of rich intercultural material: Cultural Detective Online; other questions are useful on their own, without a subscription.

Below is a two-minute video recorded at the Commonwealth Club of California, introducing the first edition:

May the new edition’s stories and interactive activities addressing the disrupting forces of globalization and migration offer positive paths for engaging with difference without fear and by seeing with new eyes!

For further information and reviews about the book, or to order it from Amazon, visit PerceptionAndDeception.com; and to learn more about Cultural Detective’s anytime, anywhere intercultural competence development toolbox and virtual coach visit: www.CulturalDetective.com/cdonline.