Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (,, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Open Letter to Home Office Senior Management & Their Agents

130124120043-overseas-job-assignment-614xaThis is a guest blog post by Reyno Magat (full bio at bottom of the post), leadership and talent development consultant, coach and mentor, about a topic of crucial importance in the global mobility arena: management of headquarters’ expectations. I find it far too infrequently talked about, particularly in light of the huge impact it has on both expatriate and subsidiary (and in turn, overall organizational) success. I have previously written on this subject. I trust this open letter, intended as an exercise in empathy and walking in an expat’s shoes, and not as an indictment (unless the shoe fits), will help raise awareness and effect some change. Put those Cultural Detective subscriptions to good use, please! We need organizations that enable sustainable success, in all locations in which we operate.

“Much of expats’ energy, motivation and performance are affected by having to contend with home office senior leaders and their agents, who can be clueless and typically, frankly disinterested in the local realities, other than financial targets being met. These leaders and their collaborators often place unremitting pressure on expats to continue to conform to a home office-centric mindset, group-think, and timelines, with complete disregard of the challenges actually faced locally. All of these factors are at play as the expats are expected to perform and deliver results whilst mindful of risks to their personal reputation and consequent relationships with these leaders—affecting pay, bonuses, career progression AND family.”
—Reyno Magat

Dear former colleagues,

Before you ask, I’m happy to say my family and I are settled back home, having secured a really incredible new job at one of your competitors. As an added incentive, they have given me the promotion I had missed out on [for the second time, even though it had been verbally promised to me when you offered me the foreign assignment], and they’ve generously made up the cumulative pay awards and bonuses which you have steadfastly refused to give me, all on top of their superlative relocation package. Although I guess it was rather flattering that you had me flown back home for a series of discussions [business class flights and fine dining at your expense no less!] after I sent you my resignation letter, I have to say all of your efforts were too late, frankly, far too late.

Oh, just in case you’re genuinely interested to know, my dear wife is now able to have the medical attention she wasn’t entitled to whilst we were abroad, because your medical benefits package did not apply to her. You considered her a local national there, even though she has lived abroad for most of her life. You would have enjoyed meeting her when you visited, but of course you always had such tight schedules, having to fit in client meetings and their entertainment at the grand sporting and social events there [I always assured the local team that the timing was purely coincidental]. Memories of having to cajole the team to drop whatever they were doing [with unpaid overtime, as Group Finance would not have approved it] so that your visits, however frankly disrupting, went smoothly, are all in the distant past.

Speaking of clients, I’m relieved I no longer have to ask them, plead even, to provide yet more information to comply with your constant demands [which by the way seemed to invariably arrive late on Friday afternoons]. Thankfully, I’ve built very good relationships with them, although it never stopped them naturally making barely polite comments about what they call ‘imperialist/colonialist’ mentality and behaviours that must prevail at your home office. As I have often pointed out to you, many of your clients and, indeed, your employees there are well educated [including graduates from some of the best universities/business schools in the world], cosmopolitan and culturally sophisticated, some of whom coming from families, dynasties even, dating back to a time before our own nation became one. Unlike in our own culture, where people seemingly seek every opportunity to boast about their personal achievements, status and wealth, they are far too well brought up and well mannered to ever behave with such brashness, immodesty and self-publicity.

The local nationals there certainly never appreciated your inability and unwillingness to recognise that they come from an independent, sovereign nation which is only one, albeit in their eyes the most economically vibrant, of several that make up a region of different  histories, politics, economics and cultures. Yes, as I had pointed out so many times until I was blue in the face, indeed that country belongs to a geographical region, but their nation has a distinct market, business practices and customs, and political sensitivities [which may be different to ours, but not to be equated or conveniently labelled as being ‘corrupt’, ‘illegal’ or ‘laissez faire’]. I always felt very uncomfortable and worried about having to translate your memos, circulars and announcements into a language that all can understand, and have them not be seen as offensive. Inevitably, I was often accused by yourselves of having gone ‘native’ and not being mindful of Group initiatives or indeed being a dutiful corporate citizen. Frankly, frequently I didn’t understand them either, and our lives were made tougher, especially when the timelines were so compressed that they required all of us to stop everything else to comply. And, when I queried some of the content, somehow I was invariably referred to the corporate intranet. Because of time zone differences, it was often difficult to find anyone at your offices in any case who was available to help. Actually, even when I did visit your home office as part of my bi-annual leave, I found there were so many new faces, and that some of the people I had known well before I departed seemed to have moved on.

I believe you really ought to stop believing your own advertisement; that of being a truly global company, as in reality you are principally a domestic company that happens to have international offices. The market there as well as the clients, competitors and your very own employees think the same. Certainly, the employees witness on a daily basis the battles between yourselves and the local management team, with yours truly often being ‘piggy in the middle’! I know for sure that none of you ever appreciated my many sincere  efforts to mediate, and to offer what I believed to be workable solutions, as such actions had most certainly cost me my promotion and any chances of pay awards and bonuses during the time I was there. How I wish I was wiser when you asked me to take on the assignment and uproot my family, for what you then described as a ‘fast track’ for my career. I should have suspected earlier on, indeed even before I left the home office, that you were really ever only interested in sending a ‘body’ over there when HR suggested, as my own and my family’s only preparation, to go to the CIA website to read the country report of where we were going, as well as to go to the Amazon website to search for books about that country. Apart from a lengthy briefing on the company’s tax equalisation policy, that was the sum total of help my family and I were ever given.

I had actually used my own initiative before departing, by contacting Manuel Jones who you know had been an expat himself in several countries [mostly in other regions], and had been assigned previously to that country. After arrival though, I soon discovered that despite his many years of working and living abroad, his perceptions were inaccurate, dated, narrowly focused, and on many occasions, frankly racist. In fact, it made me wonder whether he actually met or formed any meaningful relationships with the local nationals, as he painted a significantly different picture of the people and the country. I suppose it was some years ago when he had all that foreign experience, and norms and business practices and realities have moved on rapidly since his time.

Looking ahead, and positively, senior management [and HR!] in my new company have warmly welcomed my offer to assist them in selecting people for foreign assignments, and to coach and mentor current and future expats. As HR is presently reviewing their foreign assignment policies and procedures, they have asked me to be one of their advisors, and I shall be collaborating with them too to identify new methods and sources of direct help aimed at all foreign assignees and their families. These will include setting up a panel of coaches and mentors specifically available to assist them [despite her own ill-treatment from you, my wife is certainly willing to assist too]. The Group CEO has already started introducing me as the Executive Committee’s newly appointed ‘BS detector’, who is expected to carry out reality checks on important home office directives before they are issued.

My experience with your company has made me justifiably sceptical, naturally, about what my new company will actually ‘deliver’ vs. intent, but I shall nevertheless be optimistic. I owe it to other expats and their families.


Disillusioned but unbowed

*Reyno Magat is a London-based leadership and talent development consultant, coach and mentor. Over 35 years of working in the learning and development field has not diminished his  relish and enthusiasm for working with leaders at various levels to equip them with the self-awareness, skills and motivation to perform at their best and to develop to their full potential. Having worked with some 30 nationalities in about 15 countries from 5 sectors, he brings to bear his own personal international background, extensive insights into business and organisational realities, creative spark, and a healthy dose of pragmatism, whether he is facilitating a leadership workshop or on an executive coaching assignment. With the added direct experience of having been a corporate buyer of external leadership and cross-cultural development services, he is keenly aware of the imperative to seamlessly integrate learning interventions with the values, culture, priorities and realities within, client organisations. By being challenging and provoking honest reflection, his primary focus typically is on consistent, culturally-appropriate behaviours, and commercially-anchored, sustainable decisions that will produce the desired results for the client.

Building Leadership Resilience with Cultural Detective

Cultural Detective® will be featured in a workshop at the 15th Annual International Leadership Association Conference in Montreal, Canada, Oct 30 – Nov 2, 2013.  Dr. Karen Lokkesmoe, Leadership Across Meridians, and Tatyana Fertelmeyster, Connecting Differences Consulting, co-author of the Cultural Detective® Russia, will lead a workshop demonstrating how CD can be used to build global leadership competencies.

Session Description:
Building Leadership Resilience with Cultural Detective
Saturday, Nov 2  10:15 -11:15   Room: Gatineau
At the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal

There are many facets of global leadership, and any number of skills that are required of today’s leaders, but one of the core skill sets is intercultural competency (Moodian, 2010; Lokkesmoe, 2009; Mendenhall, 2008). It has become clear that good intentions, awareness-raising, and exposure to other cultures are not sufficient, in and of themselves, to build global leadership and intercultural capacity (Mendenhall et al., 2008; Vande Berg & Paige, 2009). The focus must be on intentional capacity building. Cultural Detective® is an innovative and engaging methodology that allows for building concrete skills and developing sustainable ability to understand, engage, and lead others in intercultural situations more effectively.

This interactive workshop demonstrates how to use the Cultural Detective framework to build and develop intercultural leadership skills. Participants can expect to learn how to use specific elements of the Cultural Detective (culture-specific Value Lens, Worksheet, and Cultural Detective Online) as practical tools in situational analysis and decision making. Using Cultural Detective as part of your global leadership development strategy will help you increase performance, productivity and profits through loyalty, teamwork, and return on investment. It is a tool you and your employees can use immediately to achieve the bottom-line results that intercultural competence can bring to your organization.

Come put on your detective hat and learn how you can use this fun and engaging tool to enhance your (and your organization’s) global leadership competence! While our world may be shifting rapidly, developing skills to identify cultural similarities and differences, accurately interpreting real life situations from multiple perspectives, and designing creative, interculturally sound solutions help foster the resilience we need to be effective leaders today. We hope to have you join us.


Developmental Intercultural Competence Using Cultural Detective Online

Are you doing your best to develop cross-cultural effectiveness in your organization, and want better results? Quicker results? Longer lasting results? Or, maybe even just results—heightened productivity and satisfaction? Our clients have achieved amazing increases in cross-cultural effectiveness—their people improving two stages on the DMIS (the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity) in a few months, and customer satisfaction increasing 30%—using Cultural Detective developmentally. How did they do that?…

Index for This Post (jump ahead if you’d like)
The DMIS and Cultural Detective
How Customers Successfully Build Intercultural Competence
Additional Resources

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity ©Dr. Milton J. Bennett, 1986 & 1993.

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity ©Dr. Milton J. Bennett, 1986 & 1993.

Let me start by telling you about the DMIS. First published by Dr. Milton Bennett in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations in 1986, and more fully developed in Education for the Intercultural Experience in 1993, the DMIS has proven to be a key milestone in the intercultural field. It provides a roadmap for those of us who aim to develop intercultural competence.

A developmental model is a conceptual framework that helps us better understand a progressive process, as well as providing guides for continued development. Examples of a developmental model with which most parents are familiar are those charts that track the major milestones of an infant’s growth. Such models help us anticipate when our baby will smile, sit up, crawl, or distinguish right from wrong, and they can help us ready our children for their next big challenge. There are abilities our baby generally must develop (e.g., roll over) before being ready to accomplish tasks at a higher stage of development (e.g., crawl). At each stage, the baby needs to be appropriately encouraged, while also feeling safe enough to take the risk to try something new.

Similarly, the DMIS is a conceptual model of six stages of the development of intercultural sensitivity, from ethnocentrism to ethno-relativism. The IDI, or Intercultural Development Inventory, is a psychometric instrument that assesses one’s stage of development. Its origins are based in the DMIS, though it uses a slightly modified version of the model today, called the IDC (Intercultural Development Continuum). The DMIS and the IDI enable us to track where we are in the development of our intercultural sensitivity, and ready ourselves for enhanced sensitivity or effectiveness.

The DMIS and Cultural Detective
The beauty our clients have found in the Cultural Detective Method is that it challenges and supports, stretches and comforts, learners at each stage of their development of intercultural sensitivity. While the DMIS and IDI indicate where one is on the developmental continuum, Cultural Detective assists in the learning and development of the skills needed to succeed in cross-cultural interactions.

The process works organically. The designer must make the case for diversity and inclusion in developmentally appropriate ways, and debrief learning in ways that comfort and challenge the learners. However, the Cultural Detective (CD) Method itself need not vary, no matter the developmental stage. Learners, depending on their abilities, will naturally use the CD Method differently at different levels of development.

Let me give a couple of examples.
  • Learners in ethnocentric stages of development will easily and fairly quickly solve a Cultural Detective mystery—they will be eager to complete the Worksheet, solve the problem, give the participants in the critical incident advice on what they should have done differently. Facilitators will observe, however, that learners at earlier development stages will suggest Cultural Bridges that are naïve or unrealistic, though of course possible. They might suggest, for example, that “the Japanese person just needs to speak up more assertively,” or “the Mexican manager needs to be more considerate of others and trust that his and his company’s welfare will be looked after.” Both of these recommendations are within the realm of possibility, both are achievable by Japanese and Mexicans of certain personality types or personal discipline, but such Bridges are not realistic for the majority of people from those cultures. Learners in ethnocentric stages feel good that they are able to solve the problem, which encourages them to try another and, with practice, learn what really works and what doesn’t when teaming across cultures.
  • When completing that same Cultural Detective Worksheet, learners in ethno-relative stages of development will enjoy pairing Values, Beliefs and Cultural Sense with the Words and Actions they motivate. They will invest effort into discerning the commonalties, as well as the differences, between the participants in the critical incident. They will develop ways to build on shared interests, while also leveraging diverse opinions and abilities, so that all players more fully contribute and the organization or community benefits. They will, without prompting, compare themselves, their values and beliefs, to the players in the incident—constantly learning, discovering, and refining their self-understanding. They will, in an organic way, explore and cultivate their cultural (or multicultural) identities, their understanding of and empathy for others, and their abilities to collaborate across cultures.

Thus, in a very natural way, learners at all stages of development receive the support as well as the challenge they need to continue their developmental journey towards intercultural sensitivity. There is very little stress on the facilitator to adapt the CD Method for the learner’s level of development, freeing the facilitator to focus effort on answering questions and dealing with resistance in ways that are both appropriately challenging and supportive to the learner.

And such a flexible process can be a blessing when we work with groups from mixed developmental levels. I often compare the Cultural Detective Method to the Montessori approach, because learners at all developmental levels can gain from helping one another.

So, How Do Customers Do It? How Do They Successfully Build Competence?

1. Research shows the development of intercultural competence requires ongoing, structured learning. That is precisely what a subscription to Cultural Detective Online (CDO) provides. So, first, get a subscription. If you want to build competence in your team or organization, if you are an experienced interculturalist, or if you are new to the Diversity and Inclusion space, a CDO subscription is a small investment with huge potential. The subscription agreement allows you to project CDO contents onto a screen for group viewing in any work you personally deliver, as long as you explain to your learners that Cultural Detective Online is a tool that anyone can subscribe to. Our goal is to get these materials used!

2. USE the system, regularly. Cultural Detective Online isn’t an entertainment system; it isn’t passive; it won’t give you intercultural competence through osmosis or by using magic dust. (That’ll be version 2! Just kidding.) Log onto the system once a week, and spend 20-30 minutes debriefing a critical incident, and using Values Lenses to supplement what you see. Respond to the prompts asking you what you’ve learned. Review your notes.

3. After a few weeks using your subscription, once you feel comfortable and competent with the Cultural Detective Worksheet, upload your own incident. Choose something from your real life: perhaps an interaction with a family member, friend, or colleague that puzzled you. Once you write the brief story, link the participants in your incident (yourself and others) to the Values Lenses in the Cultural Detective Online system. Think about why you behaved the way you did, and reflect on the influence that national, gender, generational, and spiritual values had on your behavior. Think about these same influences on the other people in your incident.

4. Then, you can discuss the incident with the real people involved in the situation. Having worked through a CD Worksheet, you will be able to move beyond judgment in your discussion. You will have already thought through the possible positive intentions of the other person, so your dialogue will proceed constructively. You both can learn, and collectively develop strategies to collaborate, or cohabitate, more enjoyably.

5. If you are a team lead or an organizational facilitator, gather your learners together regularly (monthly, quarterly), to discuss what skills they are acquiring using the CD Online system, questions they have, and the challenges they’re experiencing in developing intercultural competence.

6. Remember, Cultural Detective need not stand alone; supplement the tool with your favorite activities: simulations, exercises, videos, role-plays, etc. The core Cultural Detective Method dovetails smoothly with just about any other intercultural tool or technique, because it is a process.

7. If you want to track your progress, be sure to use the IDI to get baseline measurements of participants in your group. I’d then recommend participants take the IDI again, after three months of structured learning using CDO. You will be amazed by the results!

8. Cultural Detective Online is a tool. It doesn’t replace skilled facilitation; it supplements and extends it. You may already use the MBTI, the IDI, dimensions models, etc., in the training or coaching you do. Add CD Online to your repertoire and you will be delighted at how it transforms what you are able to achieve with your learners.

9. Be sure to share your Cultural Effective success story with us, and get your organization some positive kudos!

Additional Resources
A few years ago, two very experienced and well-regarded intercultural facilitators, Heather Robinson and Laura Bathurst, wrote an article explaining what I’m talking about.

I am also happy to share with you one of the handouts I prepared for a session at a recent IDI Conference (be sure to scroll down to view all three pages). This handout is a table showing the needs for challenge and support at each stage of development, and explicates the ways in which the Cultural Detective Method meets those needs. You are most welcome to download and print this handout. Note that in the handout you will find the five stages of development that are currently used by the IDI (slightly different than those of the DMIS, above).

Please let us know how you have used Cultural Detective in your teaching and training to facilitate your learners’ intercultural development. I would also like to invite any researchers or graduate students who are interested in conducting research on this important topic to contact us.

We Have to Teach in Context!


What we learn has to “fit” with what we know.
It has to be appropriate for where we live and work.
Part of learning is to apply the new to the old, integrating the two.

A client called us, saying they had hired a young woman with an MS in Intercultural Communication to design courseware for them. The objective of the courseware is to improve participants’ job performance, in this case, to make them more effective and efficient at servicing international customers.

“We had a lot of hope for intercultural communication training. But we’ve been doing it for nearly two years now, and we are very disappointed with the results. We have seen no bottom-line impact on performance.”

In reviewing the courseware, I found that it in many ways it was very savvy, but appeared to have been taken nearly verbatim from the woman’s graduate studies. The exercises and activities were designed for master’s students in intercultural communication, and had not been adapted for customer service representatives!

We heard from another client recently that had invested three years developing a curriculum to improve the intercultural competence of their global staff. A diverse group of their international employees attended professional development classes in intercultural communication, and an elite group at head office developed a standardized curriculum to be used worldwide. One of the main objectives of this effort is to be able to better resolve conflicts and misunderstandings more effectively.

So what’s the problem? Everyone loves the new curriculum. However, they leave the program feeling no better equipped to resolve conflicts. They love the tools they’ve learned, they enjoy the trainers, but they don’t know how to use the new tools and skills in a real situation!

What do these two scenarios have in common? In both cases, the training designer was replicating a graduate-level education course—designed for professionals—and repurpose it, as-is, for skill building. And that just doesn’t work! I’ve seen it far too often in recent years, and it’s a distinction we really need to make. Doctors graduate to practice medicine and to help their patients learn healthy lifestyles; they do not generally teach patients how to be doctors.

Professionals need skills they can use on the job, and that includes cross-cultural skills. But those skills must be taught in context, via application and practice in simulated and, eventually, real situations.

In the first case, Cultural Detective was added into the client’s existing customer service training. Leveraging pre-existing company-specific case studies and audio-visual scenarios, we used the Cultural Detective Worksheet and Values Lenses to supplement the debriefing. In this way, the need for intercultural skills became more evident and was linked to job success for the customer support engineers. In addition, all practice of cross-cultural skills was integrated with the practice of vital job skills.

We retained many of the exercises and activities included in the original, separate cross-cultural curriculum. However, we wove them into the customer service training to supplement, amplify, and deepen learning using the Cultural Detective Method. Once cross-cultural skills were grounded in the business at hand—the purposes of the employees’ work (customer service)—they made all the difference in the world.

This client reported to us a 30% increase in customer satisfaction that they directly attribute to Cultural Detective.

The second case is still in process. I very much admire the quality of the curriculum and the incredible coordination it has taken to get so many trainers in such diverse locations “up to speed” with the material. Yet, they are starting to realize that although the training has been well-received, staff is not able to use what they have learned once they are back on the job. Yet with so much investment, they don’t want to completely redesign. And they don’t want to be dependent on outside material.

I advised them to weave into their curriculum a simulated conflict scenario, one that could be worked on and revisited throughout the training. In this way they do not need to completely redo their superb design, and the training they have already provided will still be useful. The difference? The revised curriculum is grounded in their reality and will allow staff to practice cross-cultural skills in simulated situations. That way, when they return to work, they will know when and how to apply the cross-cultural skills and tools they have learned.

Let’s look at a typical training curriculum, and then look at how easy it is to weave Cultural Detective into the existing design. Let’s say on Day One they teach what is culture (Iceberg, observable behavior linked to underlying values) and D.I.E. (learn to Describe before we Interpret and then only with culturally appropriate information, to Evaluate). On Day Two, they teach intention/perception and cross-cultural adjustment (culture shock).

Instead, they might start Day One by introducing a case study involving an everyday challenge. Having introduced the context, trainers facilitate learning as planned in the original curriculum (Iceberg and D.I.E.—Description, Interpretation, Evaluation). After doing so, however, they return to the case study, the professional context, and explore: how do values apply to this case study? What are the Evaluations that I am making, based on what Descriptions? From there, it’s a very easy introduction to the Cultural Detective Method, which this client has already licensed and, therefore, is welcome to use.

On Day Two, intention/perception can be taught as part of the debrief of the Cultural Detective Worksheet for the case study. And, the same case study can be used to ground teaching around culturally-appropriate service or cultural adaptation. From there, as they facilitate the remainder of the designed curriculum, they can provide staff the opportunity to speak with the individuals in the case study, in a simulated environment, and to use CD Values Lenses and the CD Worksheet to help them better understand their own values and worldviews. Finally, staff can use the CD Worksheet Method to facilitate a resolution to the case study—harnessing the advantages of diversity rather than navigating around or ignoring them.

If you’ve licensed the CD Method, you know how versatile it is. But what you may not realize is that Cultural Detective doesn’t need to replace other methods. Often, if you put Cultural Detective at the core of what you are already doing, you’ll find the rest supplements it quite naturally.

Always remember, adults tend to learn best in context; they want to know why something is important to know or do. If adults learn to use and apply intercultural tools in situations that replicate real life, they’ll be much more likely to employ them when the need arises.

Want to Get Rave Reviews AND Truly Make a Difference?

WowlargeHow would you like to revel in unsolicited, overwhelming praise and gratitude? And, on the job, no less?

We all make fun of “happy sheets,” those “feel good” evaluation forms participants are asked to fill out at the conclusion of a training session. But how sweet it is when a hardworking facilitator or coach receives unsolicited kudos! And Cultural Detective can enable you to do just that.

We help you look better and DO better! Cultural Detective provides a core process for developing intercultural competence, and you facilitators, coaches, team leads, study abroad counselors, professors—you add the bells and whistles, the supplementary activities and simulations, the design and personality that weave it all into a smashing success! You know you’re using a state-of-the-art Method, grounded in developmental and constructivist theories, adding both to your credibility and effectiveness.

Here’s an email one corporate trainer recently received after using Cultural Detective. Thank you for sharing it with us!


I trust you are back home, and preparing for your next Cultural Detective training session. I hope all is well.

I want to thank you for coming and bringing your fabulous Cultural Detective presentation and training. I swear to goodness I have used what I learned no less than five times, within our group, to resolve differences that could have been roadblocks otherwise. You squarely “nailed” the subject matter and how to use it. Your passion, your examples, your group exercises, how you drew people out to share their experiences and expectations and your patience (with at least one of us, who shall remain nameless) was inspiring. It was excellent, and the water-cooler talk I heard echoed the same thoughts as mine. I can truthfully say that I got more out of those short, few hours, than any other training I can think of. I am anxious to use the strategy in a discussion with parties of more diverse cultures than my five encounters so far. I’m confident we both will win.

I hope you can carry Cultural Detective all across the organization, because it applies to everyone; I even used it with my wife to determine where we were going to eat, just like the example you used! How about that for an example of classroom to practice! I don’t think it gets any better than that.

Well, thanks again. I just wanted you to know how much I though of your training and what it had done for me, in, what, a week? It was great. Thanks, and if ever I can be of service to you in someway, please don’t hesitate to ask.


(signature removed for privacy), a practicing cultural detective

Foreign assigments and what it could feel like – a real life example

Very typical story, sadly, wasting everyone’s time, efforts and talent. I urge those of you with Cultural Detective Online subscriptions to debrief this story using a Worksheet! Thank you for sharing, Jenny Ebermann, and for your shout-out to our tools.


Does Cultural Detective “Work” in a University Setting?


Click on the image to view a full-size version of this letter.

We are very proud to say that Cultural Detective has been an essential ingredient of the International Business Management Program in the ESPEME-EDHEC Business School in France over the past six-years. Dr. George Simons and colleagues have designed and delivered leading-edge courseware in fully simulated environments, spiraling around a Cultural Detective backbone. The results they have achieved have been remarkable. George has, over the years, most generously shared his experiences, his students’ projects (Blended Culture identity, comparative culture differences, movies, artwork, papers), and his designs with us.

I am thus quite eager to share with you this letter from Elizabeth Dickson, Head of the International Business Management Program at EDHEC Nice and Lille. I’m confident you’ll join me in congratulating George as well as his colleagues for the fine work they continue to do. I believe you will find it interesting to read Elizabeth’s letter, and to view what one head of a major educational institution feels have been the components of a successful international business course.

And, to answer the question in this post’s title, “Yes, by all means. There are quite a few universities on several continents using Cultural Detective to great effect.” It’s not just for business anymore.

There are quite a few other use cases that might prove interesting to you on our website.

The Best-Kept Secret of Successful Teams

4 Phase ModelAlmost every team and community today is diverse in some way or another: gender, age, spirituality, professional training, ethnicity, nationality… While we respect other styles and cultures, most of us still get stuck at some point where we say, “OK, we’re different; now how do we work (or live) side-by-side? How do we harness our differences as creative assets? At a minimum, how do we simply keep from driving each other crazy?”

We might work with partners who view time as flexible and events as unfolding. This may mean that, to them, deadlines are mutable and subject to change. Meanwhile, we push ourselves and our bodies, working overtime to make sure we honor our commitment to an agreed-upon deadline. While we may respect our colleagues’ view of time management on a theoretical basis, and perhaps envy them their apparently healthy work-life balance, how do we succeed with partners who don’t seem to respect their commitments to deadlines?

Perhaps we have a neighbor or even a waiter at a favorite restaurant who communicates very directly, yet we prefer a bit more indirection, thank you. While we respect their communication style, it can get irritating and try our patience.

Too often we fail to actively seek to bridge differences because we see them as something negative, as something that separates rather than unites us. Yet, by ignoring our differences, by pretending they are not there, we imbue them with great power. Eventually they can get the best of us, surprising us at awkward moments and causing frustration and tension. Our reluctance to address differences may stem from a fear that acknowledging their existence may push us farther apart rather than allowing us to collaborate enjoyably.

So, how do we transform these differences into assets? How do we convert them from something to be denied, hidden, or tamped down, into something to be embraced and used for the good of the organization and the team?

One model that has proven quite useful over the past two decades of use comes from the classic and widely used simulation, Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. Called the “Four-Phase Model for Task Accomplishment,” this very simple approach guides us to first identify the similarities and differences at play in our interaction, verbally affirm them, spend time understanding them and, finally, explore how to leverage them.

How a specific team leverages similarities and differences will depend on the members of the team and their shared goals and realities. Each team creates its own team culture, ideally based upon and growing out of the first three phases of this Four-Phase Model.

As you can see in the graphic above, the Four-Phase Model is not linear, but rather each phase weaves into and out of the other. For example, understanding may lead to further identifying, or leveraging may lead to added affirmation.

A text description of the Model accompanies Ecotonos and provides further elaboration of the graphic:

  • Perceiving similarities and differences
  • Establishing which differences are divisive and which commonalties unite
  • Creating self-awareness of one’s own strengths and styles
  • Appropriate balancing of the tension between sameness and difference
  • Confirming individual commonalties and differences
  • Substantiating that difference is desirable
  • Legitimizing difference in the eyes of the group
  • Welcoming conflict and paying attention
  • Attempting to understand the other person’s perspective
  • Stepping into the other’s shoes
  • Mirroring/exploring and discovering together
  • Probing for deeper comprehension using various approaches
  • Seeing an issue from several vantage points
  • Defining how team members can contribute to goal accomplishment
  • Agreeing on methods for utilizing team expertise
  • Facilitating the generation of creative solutions
  • Creating a “team” culture
  • Focusing on efficiency and effectiveness

Once people become comfortable with the Identifying Phase, they may perceive the Affirming Phase as something unnecessary, a waste of everyone’s time. “We are all adults. We don’t need to give one another kudos.”

But my extensive experience proves, over and over again, that taking the time and effort to actively engage in the Affirming Phase is well worth the investment. Proceeding more slowly allows the team to accomplish more in less time, so to speak.

Below is one video that illustrates the value of affirmation in our lives. It is pretty long, but you’ll get the idea pretty quickly and I’m confident you’ll enjoy watching it.

The Four-Phase Model is one tool that can powerfully transform conflict into productivity and innovation. And, by the way, don’t forget that you are awesome!


Global Teams in Theory and in Practice

Global-TeamGuest post by Vicki Flier Hudson

I once heard a Zen Buddhist monk say that the definition of suffering is the gap between what is and what we think should be. The wider that gap, the more we experience stress. Today’s global virtual team, without the right tools, might end up spending a lot of time in that gap. Most teams want to becoming high-performing units with all individuals feeling valued, all cultures being respected, and all tasks getting completed on time. The reality can look quite different, however. In today’s taxing environment, many teams find themselves reacting to fires, completing their tasks but without the benefit of time for intentional reflection or action.

As an intercultural practitioner I’ve had the privilege of working with a variety of global teams in industries from manufacturing to finance. Many of them display similar characteristics. They are often comprised of talented individuals who appreciate cultural diversity and want to collaborate effectively. But why do few teams achieve that vision? What causes the gap between that desire to collaborate and the reality of division or confusion?

So many factors play into the health of a global team, some of which defy explanation — call it chemistry, dynamics, or magic. Some of the factors, however, are more visible. For example, I see many teams become misaligned because they do not have proper communication protocols in place. They make false assumptions about shared understanding of terms or processes which can delay projects. Cultural differences also play a significant role in the effectiveness of global teams. Team members might run into disparate cultural approaches to a project, and rather than observe the problem objectively they immediately begin jumping to conclusions and/or negative evaluations. This premature leap can cause them to chase down incorrect solutions and again delay the project. Also, the team may not take full advantage of the diverse perspectives and resources that the members provide.

How do we close this gap between the theory of a collaborative team and the practice of one? First, a global team must realize that intercultural competence is a learned skill, in some ways like welding or computer programming. Cross-cultural skills may be harder to acquire or measure, but they must be studied and practiced. Cultural Detective Online is an incredible tool for global teams to unite around and hone their intercultural proficiency.

CD Online makes it possible, for example, for teams represented in fifteen countries to come together in a virtual training room and explore several important aspects of collaboration. First, they learn to separate objective facts from their perceptions of situations. That skill alone can increase team trust dramatically. Then they learn through what lenses their colleagues might be looking, and how those values impact the outcome of a business problem. Imagine eighteen members of a global team, all online and on the phone, working through a CD Online scenario together that illuminates the values of cultures they work with every day. Everyone gets to contribute and they physically practice those vital cross-cultural skills right there in the training.

I feel a great sense of excitement about what Cultural Detective Online does to increase the effectiveness of global teams, and not just in theory. Join me and the Cultural Detective team as I walk through a case study of a virtual training designed for a global team using CD Online. This event is free and will take place April 9, 2013. To learn more about this event click here, or to register please click here.

Global teams have amazing potential. What tools have you used to get your global team to high-performance?

Vicki Flier Hudson, speaker and Chief Collaboration Officer for Highroad Global Services, inspires people to live, work, and build teams across cultures. She has helped countless large-sized corporations establish successful operations between the United States and India or Europe. Vicki is a certified administrator of the Cultural Detective methodology and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). She has been featured on NBC News, and many of her articles have been published in a variety of magazines.