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!

Virtual Teamwork in Latin America

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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.

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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.

 

Since When is 40% Acceptable?

Instructional_Design-InfographicOnly half of 1120 instructional design professionals surveyed recently feel their designs help meet business goals, and LESS THAN 40% feel their designs meet learning needs! That means that 60% believe their learning designs do NOT accomplish objectives! Survey results also showed that even in 2015, traditional classroom training ranks #1 on a list of the top ten learning approaches; 92% of instructional designers responding said they rely on it ahead of online or blended learning, coaching or mentoring.

Such findings help explain why sales of Cultural Detective‘s old-fashioned though beautiful, printed PDF handouts still outsell our state-of-the-art Cultural Detective Online, which provides unbelievable value for the investment (63 packages integrated into one interactive system at very affordable subscription prices). It also shows that you, our community, are learning leaders who are very quickly turning that reality on its head—if trends continue, CD Online sales will soon surpass PDF package sales.

Neither are you part of that 60% in the study who feel their designs don’t meet learning goals! You, our users, report that CD Online makes it easy to make learning creative and practical—and to achieve outstanding results.

The research findings I shared above are by ATD Research and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), and appear in Instructional Design Now: A New Age of Learning and Beyond. The report retails for $499 ($199 for ATD members). A white paper is available for $19.99 (free to ATD members), and ATD has made a very short free preview available as well. The research addresses such questions as:

  • Are most organizations embracing high-tech options, such as mobile learning, social learning, and MOOCs?
  • Which of the newer tools and approaches produce better learning results for companies?
  • What can instructional designers expect the next few years to bring?
  • Does formal education still play a valuable role in preparing designers for the challenges of the workplace?

Organizations participating in the survey include LinkedIn, NASCO, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

The last study in this series—from 2010—showed that instructional design needed to become faster, more strategic, global, and tech-savvy. Other key points from the 2010 study included:

  • Emerging learning methodologies would challenge designers to craft multifaceted content.
  • Growth in social media would expand its use in learning.
  • Budget constraints and staffing issues would be stumbling blocks for instructional designers.
  • Measurement capabilities would be increasingly necessary to capture and communicate the value of learning assets.
  • Efforts would be required to get organizational stakeholders onboard with new learning mechanisms.

We frequently share designs and results from our user community on this blog. It’s a great way to help others, to encourage the development of intercultural competence in this world of ours, and to get you and your organization’s name out there as leaders in intercultural competence development. Contact us if you’d like to share a summary of your work or have us interview you.

And, for goodness sake, if you haven’t explored the potential of Cultural Detective Online, what’s stopping you? Join our next free webinar on Tuesday, May 12th. Information and registration can be found here.

A Rainbow with a Streak of Gray: Demographic Trends in the United States

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Photo ©Dreamstime.com

“Demographic transformations are dramas in slow motion. America is in the midst of two right now. Our population is becoming majority non-white at the same time a record share is going gray. Each of these shifts would by itself be the defining demographic story of its era. The fact that both are unfolding simultaneously has generated big generation gaps that will put stress on our politics, families, pocketbooks, entitlement programs and social cohesion.”
—Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center

As a US American interested in diversity issues, I was intrigued by the recently released Pew Center report based on the book, The Next America, examining demographic changes taking place in the United States. Pew reports are well-researched, present interesting and useful data, and never fail to give me a different perspective on the world in which we live.

The United States is changing demographically faster than many of us realize. I remember a few years ago, when working for an educational institution that offered diversity courses, a city official from California called to say they needed help because the “minority” population was soon to be over 50%! Today, I rarely hear the term “minority,” and this study definitely shows why.

“In 1960, the population of the United States was 85% white; by 2060, it will be only 43% white. We were once a black and white country. Now, we’re a rainbow.”

Immigration is the main force behind this rainbow, according to the report. Large numbers of immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th century were from Europe; today only 12% are European. Since 1965, the USA has seen more than 40 million immigrants; about half are Hispanic and nearly three-in-ten are Asian.

As this shift in demographics has taken place, so have shifts in attitudes. According to Mark Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at Pew, ““Intermarriage is playing a big role in changing some of our views of ethnicity.” Currently, 15% of marriages are between people who are not of the same race or ethnicity—that is, one out of six marriages. Talk about a “melting pot!”

As these marriages produce children, a new set of issues arises.  One example: categories of race and ethnicity on government forms are less likely to fit or be meaningful. What do you call yourself when you are confronted with choosing just one part of your interracial or interethnic (Blended Culture) identity?

This situation arose recently when my son (White) and his wife (African American/White) had to complete a form to enroll their three-year old son in pre-school. Although one-quarter African American, my grandson looks very White, like his dad. There was lengthy discussion about what race to choose: African American or White. There were no other options, available for them—they could only choose one “race”—and they were uncomfortable with either choice as it didn’t reflect his heritage accurately.

Not only is the USA becoming more ethnically and racially diverse, but our population is aging. According to the study’s author, “10,000 Baby Boomers a day will turn 65—every single day between now and the year 2030.” That’s a lot of old people!

Contrast their lives with that of the first generation of “digital natives”—people for whom the online world has always existed. Their experience is shaped in part by their technological comfort and ease, while many of the older generation struggle to simply use their cell phones.

However, more than a “digital divide” exists among the generations in the USA. Growing up in different times and having radically different experiences means that the generations don’t always see eye-to-eye on lifestyle, issues, or politics. Yet, these days, a record number of US Americans—over 50 million—live in multi-generational family households, according to the report.

While this may seem perfectly normal to some of our blog readers, it is a new reality in the US. In the past several years, a stigma became attached to returning home after moving out for school or a job. To many, an adult “boomerang” child returning home to live with their parents was “clearly” a failure or had problems of some sort. No longer! Due to the poor economy, it is now seen as quite practical to live together when one can’t find a job or has limited (or no) means. And, as much as they might like each other, differences in opinion can cause stress in a household.

“It is a challenge for our society how we navigate this change at a time when the young and old don’t look alike, don’t think alike, and don’t vote alike.”
—Paul Taylor, author  The Next America

Cultural Detective has tools to facilitate change by helping users to better understand some of the different cultures making up the USA today. First, however, as intercultural professionals worldwide know, before one can understand others, one needs to understand oneself.

Cultural Detective Self Discovery helps people discover their values, preferences, and the cultural influences driving their thinking and their actions, and explore their cultural identities. It can be used as a stand-alone exercise or as a powerful component in sessions focused on cultural awareness, diversity and self-development, or as a process to facilitate teambuilding and organizational synergies.

Cultural Detective Generational Harmony provides a glimpse into four distinct generations in the USA, each with differing experience, expectations, and lifestyle requirements. By understanding these distinctions, one can be better prepared to recognize and manage issues that may arise due to generational differences in the workplace, while at the same time meeting organizational demands and objectives.

Cultural Detective African American explores the complexities of African American culture in the USA today. It investigates the values and communication styles of this community in an effort to bridge cultural gaps and support more inclusive groups, communities, and workplaces.

Cultural Detective Latino/Hispanic introduces this heterogeneous, multiracial group residing in the United States, people with cultural, historical, and ethnic roots in countries of Latin America. Comprising the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the United States, Latino/Hispanics now number over 50 million, and account for one-out-of-four public school students in the US.

Cultural Detective USA offers insight into some of the key values that are representative of the dominant societal norm, in large measure Protestant, Anglo-Saxon values. While there is a wealth of ethnic, racial and cultural diversity within the USA, one needs to be aware of the power of the dominant culture in influencing behavior, as well as the specific values of other cultural groups, when learning about the USA.

Cultural Detective Blended Culture investigates those who hold multiple frames of cultural reference within themselves. This may include such individuals as internationally assigned employees and their families, immigrants and refugees; those who have grown up as members of ethnic minority communities within a dominant culture; and people raised by parents of different cultural backgrounds.

Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures helps take cultural awareness and savvy to the next level by looking at how to develop effective bridging strategies for working across cultures. Recognizing that cultural understanding is essential but not enough, this packages focuses exclusively on connecting cultural similarities and bridging cultural differences effectively to reap the benefits of diversity.

Any of these packages sound interesting? Cultural Detective Self-Discovery and Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures are available for purchase through our website. The other packages mentioned are available for handy reference, 24/7, as part of Cultural Detective Online. What are you waiting for? Use Cultural Detective to investigate the cultures shaping the USA and our world, and Get A Clue!

Lack of Diversity Correlates with Religious Hostility

world-religious-diversityQuick! What is the most religiously diverse area of the world? Not the Middle East—it’s primarily Muslim, and not Latin America—it’s primarily Christian.

It is, of course, the Asia Pacific region, home to a great diversity of religious traditions including Islam and Christianity, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and loads more. This is just one interesting tidbit from a report on world religions released this week by the Pew Research Center.

More noteworthy than this fact, however, is that some of the world’s least religiously diverse places are home to the highest rates of social violence involving religion. Of the five countries exhibiting the most religious violence:
  • Afghanistan and Somalia both rank in the bottom ten for religious diversity, with a “Religious Diversity Index” or RDI of 0.1.
  • Pakistan ranks as having “low diversity,” with an RDI of 0.8.
  • India (RDI 4.0) and Israel (RDI 4.5) are ranked as “moderately diverse.”

If diversity indeed correlates with lower violence, that is indeed good news for diversity and pluralism, and a desire to discourage violence and promote inclusion are good reasons to put Cultural Detective Islam and Cultural Detective Jewish Culture to good use! And please, help us create packages for other major world religions! Such tools are especially needed given that the Pew Research studies show huge increases in religious hostilities in nearly every world region.

increase in religious hostilities

How did this finding, correlating the lack of religious diversity and hostility, come about? In December 2012, Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life published a report entitled, “The Global Religious Landscape,” based on data gathered in 2010. It found, in part, that:

“Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories … estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.”

01_groupsThen, in January 2014 Pew published the results of another study in its article, “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High.” It involved data on 198 countries:

“A third (33%) of the countries and territories in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.”

socialHostilitiesJust this month, April 4, 2014, the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world, published further analysis that it conducted on the 2010 data. They produced a very interesting index that ranks each country by its level of religious diversity—its RDI, or “Religious Diversity Index.” RDI was calculated based on the percentage of each country’s population that belongs to the eight major religious groups defined by Pew. The closer a country comes to having equal shares of the eight groups, the higher its score on the 10-point index.

To quote from the report,

“In order to have data that were comparable across many countries, the study focused on five widely recognized world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism—that collectively account for roughly three-quarters of the world’s population. The remainder of the global population was consolidated into three additional groups: the religiously unaffiliated (those who say they are atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular); adherents of folk or traditional religions (including members of African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions); and adherents of other religions (such as the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism).”

This, of course, means that diversity within these larger religious sub-groups was not examined.

Linking the findings from phase two (social hostility) and phase three (religious diversity) shows the correlation between lack of religious diversity and social hostility.

I would emphasize that the link between lack of religious diversity and increased social violence does not appear to be a finding reported by Pew Research. Rather, it is an observation written by Emma Green in The Atlantic. The top five—and many others—of the most socially hostile countries do indeed have lower RDIs. However, there are countries with low religious diversity that also show low ratings for religious hostility: Namibia, Marshall Islands, Malta, Kiribati, Cambodia, Djibouti, Lesotho, and Grenada among them.

The research is definitely worth reading. The overall increase in religious hostility is driven by certain types of hostility, including abuse of religious minorities, harassment of women over religious dress, violence to enforce religious norms, mob violence related to religion, and religion-related terrorist violence. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Emma Green ends her article with an interesting thought:

“It may not be true everywhere, but these data suggest something remarkable: Religious pluralism can be, and often is, compatible with peaceful societies.”

What do you think? What is your experience? What successful efforts have you seen to bridge religious differences and increase tolerance and respect?

42% Fail in Overseas Assignments

As many as two in five managers fail in their overseas assignments, according to a survey released by Right Management. A worldwide average of only 58% of international postings were judged to be successful by their organizations, with little variation across regions.

“This has to be one of the most disappointing findings of our survey,” said Bram Lowsky, Group Executive Vice President Americas at Right Management. “Given the investments being made in bringing along a new generation of leaders and their growing need to be able to think and operate globally, for 42% to fail when they’re sent abroad is hard to fathom. It’s also worth noting that the failure rate is more or less a constant whether it’s Asian, European or North American managers.”

The survey also found disparities in the preparation given expatriates before an assignment, said Lowsky.

Expat Prep

“A global average of 25% of organizations provides language training. However, the average drops to 18% for North American employers, while it’s closer to 33% among European, African and the Middle Eastern companies. Even harder to believe, an average of 16% of companies globally give minimal to no preparation at all, and for North American employers it’s 22% that do virtually nothing. No wonder so many managers don’t perform well outside their home country.”

We know readers of this blog are more savvy than that! There are enough challenges changing jobs within an organization, let alone the additional challenges when transferring to an unfamiliar culture. Smart organizations don’t just invest in training the person going on the international assignment; they invest in building strong relationships among the whole team—domestically and internationally. Learn how Cultural Detective Online can benefit your team by attending one of our free webinars. Or give us a call—we’d be happy to assist you in getting your team subscribed to Cultural Detective Online today!

Virtual Teaming

With mobile work styles on the rise, management styles need to change and adjust to the new reality. Along with the obvious benefits to employers and workers, there are significant drawbacks to a mobile work style—policies need to be modified, expectations made clear in different ways, and creating a cohesive work group becomes more difficult.

Any organization has its challenges in trying to shape a random collection of people into a “team” of some sort—whether it’s a small group engaged in a specific project, or the group spirit that often emerges from employees working together to accomplish desired results.

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With a mobile work style, how do we achieve a sense of community, a sense of shared purpose that allows employees to perform at their best to achieve the overall goals of the company?

One answer is found in the Method and tools offered by the Cultural Detective series. Cultural Detective: Self-Discovery is designed to explore one’s own values—what makes each of us “tick.” This self-knowledge is the base upon which to build intercultural competence.

Cultural Detective: Bridging offers a way to look at conflicts and to move beyond a win/lose scenario to “bridge” differences to work more constructively together. Theory and practice are interwoven to provide concrete suggestions for learning to resolve difficult situations.

The Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork package is designed to assist both collocated and remote teams in meeting the five major challenges of teamwork in todays’ global environment. While many companies embracing mobile work styles are located in one geographical location, they wrestle with many of the same challenges as virtual teams working internationally. Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork provides insights, processes, and tools to meet these challenges.

And of course, no mobile work style would be complete without a subscription to Cultural Detective Online, the virtual intercultural coach that is available, anywhere anytime 24/7. So helpful to have a reference available before you email or talk to your new colleague from a culture different than your own! Do they value direct, straight-to-the point communication, or a more nuanced approach? Should you spend some time getting to know them personally, or just get directly to the business discussion?

Did you know you can set up groups within Cultural Detective Online so you can work virtually with employees to enhance their intercultural competence? Let us show you how! Join one of our free webinars to learn about the capacities of CD Online, and ask us how your organization can take advantage of group subscriptions to Cultural Detective Online.

New Brain Study Illustrates Gender Differences

Top: male brain networks Bottom: female brain networks

Top: male brain networks • Bottom: female brain networks
Average findings from the University of Pennsylvania study
Images ©study authors

“At any given moment, a woman is likely to be using her whole brain while a man is using half of his. Men are more likely to be right-brained (more intuitive) or left-brained (more logical) than women.”
—Ruben Gur, neuropsychologist and one of the study authors

A just-published study of the brain functionality of 949 young people shows striking differences in brain wiring between men and women. The authors of the study suggest that male brains are biologically structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action (motor and spatial abilities), whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes (memory, social adeptness, multi-tasking).

The study of 428 males and 521 females aged 8-22 was conducted by ten colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They used a technique called “diffusion tensor imaging” (DTI), which scans the paths travelled by water molecules around the brain.

“The maps show us a stark difference in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks and women at others.”
—Ragini Verma, researcher

The story is making a big splash in the press and in social media. It is a notable study, however, the main interpretation the researchers and the media seem to be taking from the study is that gender differences are biologically determined. I found such a conclusion very puzzling, because the study results themselves show that differences in brain wiring are not congenital!

The study showed that boys and girls are born with similar connectivity, and that differences in brain pathways between the genders begin to manifest at about 13 years of age, and diverge even further at 17. The study authors attribute this to the time sex begins to become important in a person’s life. I suppose that means the time hormones begin to kick in? But, of course I wondered if the differences emerge during the teenage years because that is about the age that gender socialization really begins to manifest.

Then Kathryn Stillings, our editor, found this article by science writer of the year Robin McKie. Robin explains that the study’s findings actually disprove the authors’ interpretations and reinforce the view that gender differences are the result of acculturation.

“Yes, men and women probably do have differently wired brains, but there is little convincing evidence to suggest these variations are caused by anything other than cultural factors. Verma’s results showed that the neuronal connectivity differences between the sexes increased with the age of her subjects. Such a finding is entirely consistent with the idea that cultural factors are driving changes in the brain’s wiring. The longer we live, the more our intellectual biases are exaggerated and intensified by our culture, with cumulative effects on our neurons. In other words, the intellectual differences we observe between the sexes are not the result of different genetic birthrights but are a consequence of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.”
—Robin McKie, The Observer

I trust you’ll read the study and the various interpretations, and draw your own conclusions. Either way, via biological determinism, acculturation/socialization, or a mix of the two, Cultural Detective Women and Men is a terrific package that delves into gender differences in a practical, dynamic way. It combines beautifully with national, religious tradition or generational packages. We trust you will try it out in your work, to help ensure that the broadest spectrum of cognitive skills are accessed for innovation and effectiveness in our organizations and societies.

More on the New Brain Study

The study’s findings show that the dominant connections in the male cerebrum (top left image above) are within either the left or right hemisphere (blue lines), and the dominant connections for females are between hemispheres (bottom left image/orange lines).

In the cerebellum (right-hand images, lower part of brain) it is just the opposite: the average male brain shows connections between hemispheres while the average female brain has dominant connections within hemispheres.

“Forget right-brain or left-brain thinking. What may be more important from a gender standpoint is back-to-front or side-to-side thinking.”
—Stacey Burling, Philly.com

“The strong link with the cerebellum might make men more action oriented, better at tasks that require quick response time or an ‘I-see-and-then-I-do’ attitude. The side-to-side thinking likely boosts women’s memory and social skills and seems designed, the authors said, to combine analytical and intuitive thinking. Communication within the hemisphere facilitates connection between perception and coordinated action,” writes Stacey Burling in her online review of the study in philly.com. Women’s brains “more easily integrate the rational, logical, verbal mode of thinking and the more intuitive, spatial, holistic mode of thinking,” she quotes Gur as saying. “Women’s thinking is likely to be more contextual. Their brains are better connected between their decisions and their memories. For men, memories are memories. Decisions are decisions.”

It is noteworthy that DTI or diffusion tensor imaging provides only indirect measures of structural connectivity and is, therefore, different from the well validated microscopic techniques that show the real anatomy of axonal connections,” says Marco Catani, of London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “Images of the brain derived from diffusion tensor MRI should extreme caution.”

I am curious about the results we’d see of a similar brain study of people older than 22, as I feel we change significantly as we age. This point is echoed by Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg of Oxford University, who attacked the idea that brain connections should be considered as hard-wired. “Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning.” Hopefully the next step of this work will include such a study.

Care to learn more? Click the link above to the abstract of the original study, or read this terrific article from The Atlantic.

Leading Across Cultures

Leading X CulturesBack in February, my friend and respected colleague, Michael Tucker, sent me a white paper on leading across cultures that he had just completed with one of our customers, Right Management. I meant to write about the 24-page report at the time, but, alas, time passes while we are focusing on other exciting things.

This was an interesting study due to its scope: participants included 1867 leaders of 13 nationalities, representing 134 industries.

“As we enter the Human Age, where Talentism is the new Capitalism, no organization can afford to overlook optimizing the performance of leaders who operate globally. … The fact is that cultural issues will dominate the competencies required for global leaders to be successful, now and in the future.”

80% of CEOs and human resource professionals reported Cultural Assimilation as the greatest challenge facing successful expatriates. Study findings showed that global leadership differs from domestic leadership due to the complexity of working with people from different cultures. “The global experience results in leaders developing new worldviews, mindsets, perceptual acumen and perspectives,” the white paper states.

“Leading across cultures is a critical element of leading in the Human Age and unleashing the power of what is humanly possible. It often requires making decisions in complex or ambiguous environments, understanding cultural nuances and adapting one’s style accordingly.”

Global Leadership Best PracticesThe study found six competencies required for global leadership success:

  1. Adapting Socially: the ability to socialize comfortably with new people in unfamiliar social situations and to demonstrate genuine interest in other people.
  2. Demonstrating Creativity: the ability to enjoy new challenges, strive for innovative solutions to social and situational issues, and learn from a variety of sources.
  3. Even Disposition: the ability to remain calm, not be critical of self, and learn from mistakes.
  4. Respecting Beliefs: the ability to demonstrate respect for the political and spiritual beliefs of people in other cultures, and the ability to use appropriate humor to diffuse tense situations.
  5. Instilling Trust: the ability to build and maintain trusting relationships. According to the report, trust is the one glue that holds diverse teams together.
  6. Navigating Ambiguity: the ability to work through vagueness and uncertainty, without becoming frustrated, and figure out how things are done in other cultures. Ambiguous situations are the norm in leading across cultures.

“Human Age leaders have the responsibility and opportunity to unleash the potential of all employees who work for them. To effectively unleash this passion and accelerate business success, leaders need new and different skills—managing diverse talent.”

The white paper concludes with four strategies for selecting, developing and retaining leaders who will succeed in a global business environment. An ongoing, structured learning experience such as Cultural Detective Online not only supports, but makes possible, each of the four:

  1. Select Overseas Managers includes assessment processes such as Tucker’s, and developmental tools such as Cultural Detective, used by a competent administrator/facilitator.
  2. Grow International Leadership Bench Strength includes developing and nurturing leaders as well as providing coaching—each of which are greatly aided by the Cultural Detective toolset.
  3. Ensure Success of Leaders in New International Roles includes assigning a coach and meeting for regular reviews, both of which can be significantly enhanced with a subscription to Cultural Detective Online.
  4. Localize Country Management Teams includes the creation of customized leader plans and coaching support. Again, you know what toolset is perfect for this!

This is an excellent report, which I recommend you review in its entirety. We appreciate Tucker International and Right Management making it available. I suspect we can all learn something from this reminder of what it takes to be a competent global leader.

New Study on How the Language We Speak Affects Us

“The structure of languages affects our judgments and decisions about the future, and this might have dramatic long-term consequences.”

On October 1st I read an interesting article in Scientific American, entitled, “How Your Language Affects Your Wealth and Health.” Dr. Keith Chen, of Yale Business School, had conducted a study analyzing individual-level data — economic decisions, retirement assets, smoking and exercising habits, and general health in older age — from 76 developed and developing countries. He also analyzed national savings rates, country GDP and GDP growth rates. Premised on the fact that some languages have explicit future markers while others have more ambiguous markers between present and future, Dr. Chen correlated the economic and health data with language structure, with striking results. “Speaking a language that has obligatory future markers, such as English, makes people 30 percent less likely to save money for the future,” according to Scientific American.

I shared the article on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and today I came across a terrific little video that summarizes the study’s findings. Good visuals nearly always help me make sense of information; it’s why I made this video, summarizing a different cross-cultural study, earlier this year. I bet you’ll find the movie below helpful as well:

The original study is entitled, “The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets,” written by M. Keith Chen, Yale University, School of Management and Cowles Foundation, April, 2013
Published in the American Economic Review 2013, 103(2): 690-731
Editor’s choice, Science Magazine, Vol 339(4)
Permanent address: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.2.690http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/papers/LanguageWorkingPaper.pdf

Remember, Cultural Detective is a leading-edge process not only for understanding values and behavioral differences across cultures, but for navigating them successfully.