Sperm Whales and Cultural Diversity

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Image from “The Lost Culture of Whales,” by Shane Gero in The New York Times

Our annual year-end gift to each other in our family is a boat trip to visit the humpback whales in our bay in Mazatlán. They are gorgeous, and during the trip we often swim with dolphins, delight in jumping mantas, and greet sea turtles.

I just read an article about sperm whales on the other side of Mexico, in the Eastern Caribbean (The Lost Culture of Whales, in The New York Times); their populations are declining by 4% annually. Horrible, for sure, but why write about that on the Cultural Detective blog? Granted, we here at Cultural Detective very much support sustainability, a reduced footprint, and respect for our planet and its ecology. But what do declining sperm whale populations have to do with culture?

According to Shane Gero, behavioral ecologist and founder of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project: “Behavior is what you do; culture is how you do it. All sperm whales do the same things — feed, swim, defend, socialize — but how they do them is different around the world. Just as humans use forks or chopsticks, they, too, differ in how they eat, what species of squid they eat, how fast they travel and where they roam, their social behavior, and probably many other ways we still do not understand.” Sperm whales in the Eastern Caribbean have at least 22 different dialects, and can identify one another. Interestingly, those from a similar culture are more likely to cooperate.

It seems that the lives of sperm whales are remarkably similar to those of humans: extended family members — usually female — babysit calves. Family is critical to survival, and the whales live in communities of neighboring families in a multicultural oceanic society, according to Gero. “We are not just losing specific whales that we have come to know as individuals; we are losing a way of life, a culture — the accumulated wisdom of generations on how to survive in the deep waters of the Caribbean Sea.”

I found all this fascinating, but I especially enjoyed reading Gero’s conclusions, which I post below.

“The definition of biodiversity needs to include cultural diversity. All sperm whales around the world are similar genetically… But genetics may not be particularly helpful when conserving populations of cultural whales. ‘Genetic stocks,’ which we have traditionally used to manage and protect much of the world’s wildlife, simply cannot preserve the diversity of life. Diverse systems are more resilient, and the most important diversity in sperm whales, as in humans, is in their cultural traditions.

I could point to many reasons to protect whales, like the way they mitigate the effects of climate change by cycling nutrients that enable the ocean to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, or how top predators regulate marine food chains. But if we are to preserve life, ours and theirs, we must find ways to succeed together, and value diversity in our societies and in our ecosystems.

—Shane Gero, behavioral ecologist and founder of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project

Life is indeed wholistic, all beings are interconnected, and preserving the diversity amongst ourselves and our animal and plant life may be key to our survival. I have no doubt it’s key to our well being.

The best part of working with Cultural Detective has always been the community — you — like-minded people striving to build intercultural competence. Gero’s opinions and experience would seem to make the case that our community is broader than I thought, including, at a minimum, biologists and ecologists, as well.

Study Supports Ecotonos’ Effectiveness

ecotonos-research

“This study shows that the use of the Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures supports the development of cultural intelligence (CQ) and an increase in the development of confidence in cross-cultural encounters.

This legitimates the use of Ecotonos in international business education.

Ecotonos may also be effective in preparing students for overseas internships or study abroad programs… and in multinational corporations and universities as a means to improve the CQ of their management and students.”
—Bücker and Korzilius

Since its publication in 1995, Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures has become a classic in the field of intercultural communication competence; it is a go-to resource for corporations, universities and NGOs that require the ability to effectively team across cultures. Two decades of anecdotal evidence strongly support Ecotonos’ usefulness, but it is only recently that management researchers in The Netherlands provided empirical evidence on the simulation’s effectiveness.

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Three of the five generations of Ecotonos; compact Fifth Edition on the right.

Developing cultural intelligence: assessing the effect of the Ecotonos cultural simulation game for international business students,” a study published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management (Vol. 26, No. 15, 1995-2014) by Joost JLE Bücker and Hubert Korzilius, found that Ecotonos supports the development of cultural intelligence (CQ), specifically metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral CQ.

Bücker and Korzilius write, “CQ is defined by Earley and Ang (2003) as a person’s capability to adapt effectively to new cultural contexts. It refers to individual capacities which enable one to interact effectively with others from different cultural backgrounds and in different cultural contexts (Brislin, Worthley, & MacNab, 2006). It is the ability to adapt and adjust to one’s environment, and the effective functioning in situations characterized by cultural diversity.”

The research was designed to test the benefits of using Ecotonos as a training method to develop CQ among business students that participate in an international study program, while the researchers also saw applications for corporations and universities. Simulations and role plays “should provide the most suitable opportunity to train someone’s CQ… ECOTONOS (Saphiere, 1995) was created as an attempt to add additional learning goals to those of existing games such as BAFA BAFA and ALBATROSS, by creating simulations that had more complex options.”

The study of 66 students in Toulouse and Nijmegen consisted of an experiment group that engaged in one round of playing Ecotonos, a control group that did not participate in Ecotonos, and the completion of four questionnaires 3-5 weeks apart by members of both groups:

  1. CQS (Ang et al, 2007)
  2. Cross-cultural Communication Effectiveness (adapted from Hammer, Gudykunst & Wiseman, 1978)
  3. Social Desirability Scales (Kleumper, 2008)
  4. New Self-Efficacy Scale (Chen, Gulley and Eden, 2001)

Bücker and Korzilius note the importance of their study:

“Although it has been claimed that simulation games may give positive outcomes, such as more familiarity with people different from ourselves in terms of gender or ethnicity, such games may also reinforce prejudices. Burgstahler and Doe (2006) claim that ‘In all types of simulations there is a risk of long-lasting unintended negative results’ (p. 9).

An evaluation of an intercultural communications simulation called BAFA BAFA (Shirts, 1973) found evidence of a positive change in enthusiasm for learning, an intended result, and an increased ethnocentrism, an unintended result (Bruschke, Gartner, & Seiter, 1993). The simulated experience triggered negative and reactionary attitudes toward other cultures, and did not allow for more positive changes that might come from extended interaction across cultures (Bruschke et al., 1993).

The two simulation games of Bafa Bafa and Ecotonos are different. Whereas in the Bafa Bafa game participants are invited to simulate explicit stated cultural behavior, in the Ecotonos game participants have more freedom to create their own culture. This different way of prescribing behavior in the two games may have implications for the degree of prejudice after the simulation.”

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.”

eco-pieces-with-guide

A concern that came out of the study is that researchers found “there is more understanding and comfort in student interactions, but there is not more progress in the joint project result. For undergraduate business students, feeling comfortable in intercultural situations and becoming interested in other students’ cultural backgrounds is already a great win; it stimulates intercultural learning by opening up students’ mindsets in the international class. For more mature graduate students, extra strategic learning should be expected during the simulation game, in terms of effectiveness of their cross-cultural behavior and effectuating certain predefined targets in their communication. This might be developed by stimulating the competitive side of the role of the participants in the simulation game.”

I would posit that playing Ecotonos multiple times will enable students to practice and improve their collaborative abilities; this is, after all, how the game is designed to be used. A different task or case study can be used each time the game is played, and different rule cards as well, making the play unique each time.

A second way for participants to improve their collaboration skills is for facilitators to urge them to choose one behavior they would like to demonstrate during the simulation. Participants should focus on that. During game play, when collaboration all too frequently breaks down, facilitators can interrupt play to remind players to practice the skill they have previously chosen. Both of these interventions are described in the Ecotonos Manual, 5th Edition, 2016.

I would like to thank both researchers for this work, and express my hope that they will continue with further studies on this topic.

If you haven’t yet conducted Ecotonos with your students, trainees or learners, what are you waiting for? Purchase your copy today. If you have an older copy, you may want to update; the fifth edition has explanations of a whole lot of how-to and underlying theory that you may be missing from earlier versions.

Women in Leadership and the First Public Use of Cultural Detective

women-in-workplace-2016Cultural Detective is all about supporting equality and justice, and one of the ways we’ve supported gender equality — and particularly women in business leadership — just might surprise you! It involves the very first person to use Cultural Detective after it launched to the public in 2004…

“Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager — so far fewer end up on the path to leadership — and they are less likely to be hired into more senior positions. As a result, the higher you look in companies, the fewer women you see.

This disparity is especially pronounced for women of color, who face the most barriers to advancement and experience the steepest drop-offs with seniority.”

— From Women in the Workplace 2016 report

I had a longstanding training contract with Texas Instruments in Dallas. One of the secretaries there, an administrative assistant we’ll call Ana, was Mexican American. She reported to four “white guys”: US American Caucasian men, all of whom helped manage TI’s business in Mexico and Latin America. Ana had worked for TI for six years; she knew all the stories of success and failure between Dallas and Mexico.

Ana was so excited when we launched Cultural Detective Mexico! She knew our materials are written for lay people, and she knew the business would benefit from using them. So, Ana got her bosses to agree to participant in a Lunch-n-Learn she would lead, during which she would teach them about Mexican culture. They of course were skeptical, but they agreed to humor Ana. And it would only last three hours…

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Ana conducted the short workshop for her bosses. Using the Cultural Detective Mexico Values Lens, Ana told a Texas Instruments’ story for each of the values. Each time she told one of the stories from her and her bosses’ experience, she asked them how they could have done things differently had they known what she was explaining to them. Her bosses were amazed. Two of them called me to praise Ana and the Cultural Detective, and tell me they couldn’t believe how practical our approach is.

So what does Ana’s story have to do with women in leadership? Re-read the pull quote above…

Two and a half weeks after the Lunch-n-Learn, Ana was promoted OUT of her administrative assistant role and INTO a management role! Her bosses not only realized, thanks to her efforts, the business value of cultural savvy, they also gained recognition of the power of Ana’s insights and experience. They knew she could be a terrific asset to the Latin American operation, and, indeed, she has been. But it took her taking on a leadership role for them to begin to picture her in that role.

Cultural Detective, when used regularly over time to reflect on one’s own experience, builds intercultural competence. In that sense our Method and materials help build equity for women, as well as others who all too often lack access to power. We have two terrific packages that focus on specifically on gender: Cultural Detective Women and Men and Cultural Detective LGBT.

But Ana’s story also shows how using the Cultural Detective Method can build credibility for the facilitator and establish the importance of cultural competence, justice and equity in our organizations and communities.

Learning to use the Cultural Detective Method to build intercultural competence has never been easier with Cultural Detective Online at your fingertips 24 hours a day. You, your staff, and those you coach can develop a habit of exploring cultures, studying critical incidents and uploading your own real-life stories to hone your skills on the way to your next promotion.

The pull quote at the beginning of this post is taken from “Women in the Workplace 2016,” a survey conducted by McKinsey and LeanIn.org. of 34,000 men and women at 132 companies in the USA that employ 6.4 million people. The survey was designed to uncover attitudes on gender, job satisfaction, ambition, and work-life issues. The 31 page 2016 report is available via free download, and includes some excellent Cultural Bridges for helping organizations, managers and individuals understand paths to “getting gender diversity right.” The report’s findings make an excellent companion piece to use with Cultural Detective Women and Men.

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Communicating with US Americans

P1280467Last year was a watershed for the field of intercultural communication, as it brought the publication of the Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence. Edited by Janet Bennett, the very heavy and extremely useful two-volume set includes about 350 entries by a broad international, multi-disciplinary cross-section of professionals. I am proud to be included among them.

While the first entry I was asked to write delighted my soul, the second and third ones were much more of a challenge. I suppose Janet asked me because there are few people foolish enough to take on a topic as huge, as broad, and as problematic as Communicating Across Cultures with People from the United States. I am USA-born, currently living in Mexico. I love and am extremely proud of my birth country. I am also perplexed and dismayed by it. Such is, perhaps, the nature of a culture that includes 320 million people and nearly 4 million square miles!

The USA is so very misunderstood. Any of us born there, who travel abroad, know how it feels to wear the “brand” on our foreheads, to be seen as a “representative” of that “crazy” and yet “incredible” nation. Most people internationally feel a complexity of emotions about the USA and its culture. Many hold stereotypical views, and I saw the encyclopedia as a chance to help explain US culture a bit.

In the Cultural Detective series we have the excellently written Cultural Detective USA, written by the incomparable George Simons and Eun Young Kim. The Cultural Detective USA is a tool for developing cross-cultural competence and teaming; an encyclopedia entry is information and knowledge. Thus, the two work together and complement each other very well.

I highly recommend you purchase the complete two-volume encyclopedia, published by Sage in 2015, or ask your librarian to add it to their collection. It is a hugely valuable reference, one I’ve consulted extensively since it arrived last May. Here’s what Sage says about the full volume:

In 1980, SAGE published Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences. It opens with a quote from Blaise Pascal: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees that are falsehoods on the other.” The book became a classic—one of the most cited sources in the Social Science Citation Index—and subsequently appeared in a second edition in 2001. This new SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence picks up on themes explored in that book.

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms include cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise. What defines a culture? What barriers might block successful communication between individuals or agencies of differing cultures? How can those barriers be understood and navigated to enhance intercultural communication and understanding? These questions and more are explained within the pages of this new reference work.

Key Features:

  • 300 to 350 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes
  • Signed entries that conclude with Cross-References and Suggestions for Further Readings
  • Thematic “Reader’s Guide” in the front matter grouping  related entries by broad topic areas
  • Chronology that provides a historical perspective of the development of cultural competence as a discrete field of study
  • Resources appendix and a comprehensive Index

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is an authoritative and rigorous source on intercultural competence and related issues, making it a must-have reference for all academic libraries.

My entry had to be very brief, as the 2-volume set includes over 300 entries. The publishers have given me permission to share my three entries, so here is the link for you to read Communicating with US Americans. I’m sure you’ll find many points you would have worded differently or added in, as nearly everyone has a unique experience of a nation with such a powerful presence on the world stage. I look forward to hearing your comments and additions!

Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America

P1280469The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is a huge contribution to our intercultural field, a long overdue volume to which dozens of professionals from multiple disciplines worldwide have contributed. I am honored to be counted among them.

My primary expertise over the three-and-a-half decades of my career has been multicultural, virtual team effectiveness, global managerial competence, and Japan. Thus, when the Encyclopedia’s editor, Janet Bennett, called to ask me to author Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America, I was incredibly intimidated.

Latin America (México), has been my home for the past eight years. I absolutely love it here. I frequently travel for work and pleasure to other nations in the region. But Latin America is a fairly new professional topic area for me. However, I agreed to author the entry because I wanted to be sure that this region—so hugely important on the world stage today—was not overlooked.

There are interesting social, environmental, and political movements in Latin America that I don’t see happening elsewhere; the region has a lot to teach the world, an important voice to contribute. Sadly, outsiders often lump the region together into one monolithic whole. Yet the reality is that there is huge diversity within Latin America—and within each country in the region. Heck, it’s hard just to get people to agree which nations are included in “Latin America” and which aren’t!

The Cultural Detective series includes several excellent packages on Latin America, including CD Argentina, CD Brazil, CD Chile, CD Colombia, CD Dominican Republic, CD Mexico, and CD Latino/Hispanic. These are tools to help develop our skills, our abilities to work with and live in harmony with people from these cultures. Thus, they are excellent complements to the academic-oriented, knowledge-based encyclopedia entry.

I highly recommend you purchase the complete two-volume encyclopedia, published by Sage in 2015, or ask your local librarian to add it to their collection. Here’s what Sage says about the full volume:

In 1980, SAGE published Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences. It opens with a quote from Blaise Pascal: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees that are falsehoods on the other.” The book became a classic—one of the most cited sources in the Social Science Citation Index—and subsequently appeared in a second edition in 2001. This new SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence picks up on themes explored in that book.

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms include cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise. What defines a culture? What barriers might block successful communication between individuals or agencies of differing cultures? How can those barriers be understood and navigated to enhance intercultural communication and understanding? These questions and more are explained within the pages of this new reference work.

Key Features:

  • 300 to 350 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes
  • Signed entries that conclude with Cross-References and Suggestions for Further Readings
  • Thematic “Reader’s Guide” in the front matter grouping  related entries by broad topic areas
  • Chronology that provides a historical perspective of the development of cultural competence as a discrete field of study
  • Resources appendix and a comprehensive Index

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is an authoritative and rigorous source on intercultural competence and related issues, making it a must-have reference for all academic libraries.

The publishers have given me permission to share my three entries, so here is the link for you to read Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America. I would very much like to thank those colleagues who generously shared their expertise, differing viewpoints and experience with me as I worked on this entry: Patricia Coleman, Lucy Linhares, Adriana Medina, Fernando Parrado, and Shirley Saenz. Any errors are, of course, my own, but their input greatly enriched the finished product. Please let me know what you would add or reword!

By the way, if you are interested in Latin America, I invite you to join Fernando Parrado and me for “Latin America and Its Place in World Life” (Session I, Workshop 6) at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, on the Reed College Campus, Portland, Oregon, July 13-15, 2016.

Diversely Gendered: Update to CD LGBT

World Gender Customs Map

Interactive map courtesy of USA’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS): http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/content/two-spirits_map-html/

I will admit to being stymied by the heated debates about mixed-gender public toilets. For those of us who travel, we know that there are so many places in the world with mixed-gender toilets. Sometimes one walks in past men urinating in order to reach a private stall. Of course, in other locations there is a stalwart bifurcation, a clear separation between men’s and women’s toilets.

I am reminded of a beautiful and wise concept that I learned about as a child. Growing up with Diné, or Navajo, friends in northern Arizona, I was privileged to learn so very much from their experiences, their families, and their culture. One of the transformational ideas for me was that of “two spirits”—that individuals can be both man and woman. Traditionally, this is a blessing, an honor. I can sure see why! Access to differing world views, and a broader emotional, cognitive, and expressive repertoire would be just some of the assets a “two spirit” gender might provide.

Across the planet this fluid or blended gender concept has many terms, some of which you can see in Independent Lens’ interactive “Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures.”  From the comments, it appears there remains a need for significant tweaking of the information provided, but it sure is a helpful start to a review of world beliefs and practices on fluid or non-binary gender identification. I urge you to take a look and do some clicking and reading!

Be sure also to subscribe to Cultural Detective Online or license the PDF package and spend some time with our newly updated Cultural Detective Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. It contains a wealth of useful information, and the approach helps us learn to partner across sexual orientations and gender identifications. It is absolutely one of the best resources of its kind. I am so proud of the international team that put it together.

A few years ago, PBS in the USA aired an interesting documentary entitled Two Spirits, directed by Lydia Nibley. It provides an introduction to the topic for those who’d like to learn. The film is available for rent or purchase from Cinema Guild, or via online streaming. In addition to the preview below, there are quite a few companion videos and activities on PBS’ website that are still available and free of charge. Thank you and kudos to all those involved!

 

Latin America and Its Place in World Life

3958-90321696-F367-EA4B-1108-B433EB1D3BCD.jpg_850This post, authored by Dianne and Fernando Parrado, was originally published on the ICI blog on April 6, 2016. Información en español.

Latin America is assuming its rightful place in the global arena, not only as a leading economy, but also as a model for innovative social movements.

This largest region in the world has long been admired for sharing its powerful music, dance, literature, visual art—and the only world heritage cuisine. Latin America has taken a key leadership role in exploring innovative solutions for restructuring societal inequity and promoting responsible development and the sustainable use of natural resources. Many of these efforts are based on popular, direct-democratic movements, including indigenous social movements.

However, the outstanding features of Latin America culture continue to be a sense of timelessness, an emphasis on the worth of personality, and an instinctive protest against the idea that success in business and the accumulation of wealth are superior to the acquisition of culture. Eleven Latin American nations include multiculturalism and multilingualism in their constitutions, and an additional four recognize indigenous rights.

The average Latin American thinks differently about such fundamental concepts as time, work, success, joy, truth, and beauty. In other words, it is life itself, not its possessions or achievements, that tend to be most worthwhile to Latin Americans. Being what you want to be is generally more important than getting what you want.

The Latin America worldview may hold the answers to many of the issues facing our world today, including climate change. Yet Latin America has often been culturally misunderstood. Important Latin American values such as communalism, expressiveness, celebration, and indigenous respect for the earth are frequently under-appreciated.

While often viewed as a single market with a shared language, religion, history, and culture, it is actually home to hundreds of languages and ethnicities, and diverse histories, geographies, economies, and political systems.

Latinos abroad bring perspectives and insights that can be used to generate innovative solutions and create vibrant, cohesive communities. As group orientation breaks down in various cultures worldwide, we must ask: Are we making the most of Latino talent? What do we need to do to be interculturally competent with members of the Latino diaspora?

We very much look forward to having you join us for this highly experiential workshop where we will explore the richness, complexity, irony, and promise of the hundreds of cultures that comprise Latin America. Taught by both of us, the workshop is called “Latin America and Its Place in World Life,” and it will take place July 13-15, 2016, during the 40th annual Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication.

During the workshop we will look backward: what Latin America looked like during the height of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations, what the conquista and the slave trade meant for the region, the gifts of resources and talent the region has provided, and how such history and heritage affects life in the region today. We will look at the present: how do people from different ethnicities, socio-economic levels and geographic areas communicate and collaborate, and how can we work and live with them more effectively? Finally, we will also look forward: what are some of the unique experiences and insights that Latin America has to share with the world, and what we can learn from Latin America to enrich our view of life?

Those of you who enroll in the workshop will receive a one-month subscription to the Cultural Detective Online, so you can use this resource during the workshop and have time afterwards to continue your learning at your convenience.

SIIC is one of the world’s premier venues for networking with and learning from professionals in the fields of intercultural communication and diversity. We trust you’ll join us for this annual learning opportunity! Click here to register for Session 1, Workshop 6, Latin America and Its Place in World Life.

A Personal Dilemma: Diversity vs. Diversity

Photo from the UK Telegraph

Photo from the UK Telegraph

This is a story of due diligence, mutual deception, and dialogue. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Pretty much my entire life has been dedicated to intercultural competence and diversity issues. It started when I was eleven: my family moved and I became the target of bullying for being “different.” I decided then that I needed to learn how to adapt (“fit in”) to new situations much more nimbly than I was then able to do. So, at twelve, I used my babysitting money to spend a summer abroad in Mexico. That was the first step on a lifelong path.

I am also quite Christian. Open to, respectful, and inclusive of other religions and spiritual practices, by all means—at least in my intentions and ongoing learning process—but in my own life I follow the beliefs rooted in my childhood. I am eternally grateful to my parents for instilling faith in me from a young age. So, I’m a Christian who’s committed to diversity, inclusion, and intercultural competence.

In 1999, when I moved to Kansas City, Kansas, USA, I interviewed various pastors and churches to find the right “fit” for me. I did not want to have any part of a parish culture that was exclusive or righteously judgmental. I was delighted when I found an Episcopal parish with a pastor who swore himself, and his parish, to embracing diversity.

I knew that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church had declared that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (1976-A069). I also knew that the Episcopal and Anglican Churches (the Episcopal Church is an offshoot of the Anglican Church and is part of the Anglican Communion) were having a heated internal debate about homosexuality, particularly about whether gays and lesbians should be able to be priests. I vehemently felt they should; this would be the inclusive practice. Thus, I interviewed my pastor about his feelings on this matter. When he told me he heartily agreed with the declaration, I could feel my worry ease.

The parish engaged in extensive domestic and international outreach, and not just the short-term, feel-good kind. We had long-term relationships with a medical center in Haiti and a Diocese in Ghana, with whom we partnered to alleviate hunger, improve health, and develop job skills. Ghana and Haiti were part of the Anglican Church, not the Episcopal Church, but that didn’t matter to me; we were all the same family. At least two Sundays a month our pastor’s sermon included talk about diversity, his desire to include more people of color and lower socio-economic strata in our parish that was located in an upscale, largely white neighborhood.

Things happened that I didn’t like. I remember attending a Bible study group in which the members ganged up on me. They all said that a Christian had to proclaim Jesus as THE ONE AND ONLY Lord and Savior. I said I proclaimed Jesus as MY Lord and Savior, but that I recognized many other paths to God, peace, or enlightenment, as well. I explained that I respected those paths as valid and appropriate for the people who followed them. Members of my study group fervently disagreed, showing me Bible passages to prove I was wrong. They told me I wasn’t a true Christian.

What?! I have been a Christian my entire life, in four countries on three continents, and no one has ever had the gall to tell me that before! How dare they define my spirituality for me!

I spoke to my pastor about it. He apologized. He explained to me that Kansas City was fairly “southern” in its outlook, and that our parish commitment to diversity included people who were more fundamental/literal as well as people who were more liberal in their outlook. He said we are all human, we are all on a developmental journey in this life, and that I should be compassionate.

Okay, I quit the Bible study group. For about three years I was delighted, becoming more and more involved and vested in parish life. I became an active Sunday school teacher, and co-led Vacation Bible School for the kids. I tithed 10% of my earnings, which I knew supported our outreach projects as well as parish upkeep. I attended women’s retreats and study sessions. We had a great time. I absolutely loved my community, and felt I was growing closer to God, becoming more the person He would like me to be on this earth.

Then comes 2003, when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop. I was so proud! We had married priests, women priests (I had grown up Catholic, so this was major), and now we could have priests who are variously sexually-oriented as well! I felt joy at such a major step forward for an organization that, like any other, is prone to human failings.

Thus, I was completely blindsided when, in church on Sunday, our pastor announced that we were leaving the Episcopal Church. Huh? Can he do that?! He told us that our parish would be joining the Anglican Church. The reason? He didn’t agree with having a gay bishop, and he said we shouldn’t, either. What???!!!

I obviously made an appointment to speak with the pastor right away on Monday. I was livid. How could he have pledged to me his commitment to diversity, told me he agreed with the Church’s 1976 declaration on LGBT matters, and then do this? How could he take the annual pledge I’d made and just move it without my permission to another Church?

He spoke calmly. He was obviously centered, had prayed on this, and was confident he was doing the right thing. He explained to me that pro-LGBT activities have a western bias. And not just a western bias, but a higher socio-economic class bias as well. He said that in most of Africa, most of Latin America, most of the rest of the world, the Anglican Communion does not want openly gay priests. He told me he still did support the Episcopal Church’s 1976 LGBT declaration. But, he went on to say that that declaration says gays are children of God. In his opinion, gay sex is a sin, so as long as our gay parishioners remain celibate, they remain in God’s good graces. What?! Nearly four years I’ve been learning from this man, and this is what he believes?! I was horrified. He explained to me that it was me, not him, that was failing to honor diversity and inclusion; I was being ethnocentric, with a western and upper-middle-class bias.

I, of course, disagreed. I told him that we, as a society, cannot pick and choose which differences are “acceptable” to us and which are not. I told him I’d be leaving the church. I demanded that my annual tithe be returned to me; my money would most definitely not be used by him to promote this kind of discrimination.

While this personal story is now dated, I decided to write it up after reading a recent article from Canada, “Indigenous bishops say they’ll resist imposition of ‘Western’ cultural values,” about the Anglican Church there. That article really caused me pause. I am devoted to indigenous causes. Back when I was 11 and being bullied, my only friends were Hopi and Diné. They welcomed me, and I will never forget that inclusiveness. So, indigenous people are saying LGBT inclusion is an imposition of western cultural values? That the Church is not heeding their voices? That’s not good. Everyone should be heard, listened to, respected.

Spirituality is a lifelong practice. Cultural competence is also. At this point in my development, I remain committed to the belief that we must be inclusive and respectful of all God’s creatures: human, plant, animal, and Mother Earth. Defending our lack of respect for another by attributing it to “culture” is just not acceptable. Change is difficult; my inability to adapt when my family moved is what got me into the intercultural field in the first place. Change takes time. We must engage in respectful processes, during which we honor and hear one another. Together, we can create a world in which all our unique gifts are honored and utilized.

I welcome your thoughts, insights, and experiences.

Prologue: We here at Cultural Detective are very much wanting to partner with authors on a Cultural Detective Christianity, as well as packages on other spiritual traditions, to accompany our CD Islam and CD Jewish Culture. I would also very much like to see Values Lenses on Fundamentalism/Literalism, and Liberalism/Interpretivism—as a non-expert in divinity studies, I obviously don’t have the correct vocabulary. If you share my passion and do have the vocabulary, please contact us: blog@culturaldetective.com.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence

P1280469I’ve been intending to write this post for a long time. Back in early 2012, longtime esteemed colleague Janet Bennett called me to ask a favor. I knew she was editing a new Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, a volume that should be in every serious library, so I was curious what she might ask of me. I was thrilled to hear that she wanted me to write an entry on “Creativity in Intercultural Training.”

Decades ago, colleagues would make fun of me for bringing into my training room yarn, masks, clay, scissors, colored paper, and glue. They swore to me that business people, executives in particular, did not like “crafts.” They would see us listening to music, moving, making human sculptures or films, and again swore that business people, especially executives, did not want to get so “creative.” Most of them were still lecturing or, perhaps, using critical incidents or cultural assimilator quizzes. While they wrote books, I created simulations and games. We all have our differing gifts.

The reason I felt so much passion about whole-body learning is that we all know intercultural competence involves our full selves: our mind, body and spirit, our emotions, brains, and hands. When entering a new place, we need to be able to hold onto our self esteem while letting go of what we “know” to be true. That involves super-human levels of wisdom, intuition, and flexibility. It involves “Super Learning,” and reinventing ourselves in a newer, more interculturally capable, edition. It involves creativity.

Things have obviously changed in our field in the intervening years. When Janet asked me to author the creativity entry for the Encyclopedia, I felt acknowledged for that uphill battle from so long ago. She instructed me that the entry would have to be short (five pages), as there would be over 300 entries total.

I very much enjoyed writing the piece, and am incredibly appreciative of my good friend Barbara Kappler, Assistant Dean, GPS Global Programs and Strategy, UMN Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota. She is perhaps the absolute best facilitator of intercultural learning I know, and she kindly reviewed and commented on my draft before I submitted the final version.

I highly recommend you purchase the complete two-volume encyclopedia, published by Sage in 2015, or ask your librarian to add it to their collection. The publishers have given me permission to share my three entries, however, so here is the link for you to read Intercultural Training Creativity.

Below is what Sage says about the full volume:

In 1980, SAGE published Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences. It opens with a quote from Blaise Pascal: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees that are falsehoods on the other.” The book became a classic—one of the most cited sources in the Social Science Citation Index—and subsequently appeared in a second edition in 2001. This new SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence picks up on themes explored in that book.

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms include cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise. What defines a culture? What barriers might block successful communication between individuals or agencies of differing cultures? How can those barriers be understood and navigated to enhance intercultural communication and understanding? These questions and more are explained within the pages of this new reference work.

Key Features:

  • 300 to 350 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes
  • Signed entries that conclude with Cross-References and Suggestions for Further Readings
  • Thematic “Reader’s Guide” in the front matter grouping  related entries by broad topic areas
  • Chronology that provides a historical perspective of the development of cultural competence as a discrete field of study
  • Resources appendix and a comprehensive Index

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is an authoritative and rigorous source on intercultural competence and related issues, making it a must-have reference for all academic libraries.

Announcing Our New Website!

new website 2We are thrilled to be able to announce the launch of our new and improved website!

Thanks to your commitment to building intercultural competence in our world, Cultural Detective has been privileged to grow. We now have over 70 packages in the series, 140+ authors worldwide, and are available via online subscription or licensed PDF.

Our original website grew with our community. It was like an old, beloved house, onto which new rooms have been added as the family grows. After so much adding on, light switches become hard to find, as do links to the information you might desire on the website.

Our new website is fast, easy to navigate, and easy to use. I want to very much thank our IT team, Rajat and Mahasweta, who made all the magic happen! It is no overstatement to say we could not have done it without you. Over the years, you both have become invaluable members of the Cultural Detective team. I also want to thank staff members Greg Webb and Kathryn Stillings, who helped me enormously, by uploading data, editing text, and providing feedback on design and functionality. We are blessed with talented people on this team!

I am confident we will find bugs and errors in the upcoming weeks, and we appreciate your help letting us know if you find any so we can correct them. Thank you!

website 3 new website 1

We hope you put this speedier, more organized and engaging website to good use! Now let’s get out there and build some intercultural competence!