Microsoft India has been a Cultural Detective customer for six years, and both Heather Robinson and I are so very proud of the abilities their staff members have developed to in turn coach and develop their support engineers’ customer service skills. The entire project has been amazing—truly a privilege to be a part of it! I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of their “Cultural Effective” story with you.
Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their large enterprise customer support representatives. In the first six months using the tool, they told us they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction to Cultural Detective! Now, five years later, they know Cultural Detective inside and out, and use the CD Method when interacting with both international and domestic customers.
In March of this year Heather again traveled to Bangalore to work with the trainers, to help improve their abilities to coach using Cultural Detective. The approach she used is what we call EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence. It is a combination of Cultural Detective, with which Microsoft has been working for five years, and Personal Leadership, which their staff have been working with for the past year or so.
The design was an inspired one. Because Microsoft has experienced facilitators who are also well-versed in Cultural Detective, Heather used these facilitators to get team newcomers up to speed, as well as to facilitate small group breakout sessions. This internal group of facilitators put together the readings, sample interviews and assignments for the three-day training. As is so wonderful when training in India, there were plenty of games, activities and laughter.
As you might imagine, one of the main challenges for the support engineers is knowing how to respond to customers’ emotions. Large enterprises rely on Microsoft products to function in highly customized ways, which often means long days of problem-solving discussions, heightened emotions and frayed nerves. The March training included the learners acting out skits of engineer-customer interactions, videotaping them, and then using the Cultural Detective Worksheet to debrief the contrasting values, and the EPIC approach to discern how to respond most appropriately. We would love to share one or two of those videos with you here, but, of course, they are proprietary.
Instead, let me leave you with a few of the notes scribed in small groups. In case you’re wondering why “Kit Kats” and “Milky Ways,” the participants chose a candy bar and then broke into groups, one of ten techniques you can find in this blog post.
If you or your organization would like to be profiled in an upcoming blog post, we would be happy to talk with you about making that happen. Just let us know. Congratulations to all the Microsoft staff, who are so committed to building intercultural competence in their organization, and to you, the Cultural Detective community, for your efforts on this same journey.
Do you know that 2014 is Cultural Detective‘s 10th anniversary year? It’s also the 25th anniversary of my company—Nipporica Associates, and the 35th anniversary of my work in the intercultural field! Help us celebrate! Show our authors some love! Send us a greeting and win a one-year subscription to Cultural Detective Online.
The Cultural Detective Worksheet was born back in the early 1980s in Japan, emerging out of the need for a real-time multicultural conflict resolution tool. The Values Lenses came shortly thereafter—what are today termed “negative perceptions” were then called “the dark side,” echoing the Star Wars popularity of the day.
I used Cultural Detective tools in my proprietary work for about ten years with enormous success. Then, around 2002, Shell Oil began saying that Cultural Detective gave them the most highly rated global management training they’d ever experienced—from Nigeria to Malaysia, The Hague to Houston. They told us they wanted us to develop packages for every country in which they did business. While I envisioned nothing so ambitious, I did ask ten of my most esteemed colleagues to develop five “test packages”—Cultural Detectives England, Germany, Japan, Sweden and USA. They were so enthused about this Method and material that more and more admired colleagues asked if they could author packages. Today, the Cultural Detective series includes 65 packages (with several more to be released in the next few months) and an online subscription service.
Our vision was to provide theoretically sound, practical development tools, easy for the lay person to use, effective for beginners and experienced interculturalists, at accessible prices. Our goal was to help build respect, understanding, justice, collaboration and sustainability in this world of ours. Bless you for accompanying us on this journey thus far!
Thank you so much, to all our authors, our customers, certified facilitators, users, colleagues and friends! What a grand adventure it has been! Growing faster than we ever imagined possible, and building intercultural competence in areas we never dared dream of: spiritual communities, universities and study abroad programs, professional associations, NGOs, governments, and business. Over the last ten years, the Cultural Detective Method as been refined, deepened, and broadened—thanks to all of you!
A group of Cultural Detective authors will gather this month—February 2014—in Mazatlán, México to celebrate the project’s 10th anniversary. Other authors are planning events in their locations around the world to commemorate this auspicious occasion. We have started to receive greetings, and I thought you would enjoy seeing a few of them. I’ll post a selection below.
Would you like to get in on the action? Share your greetings? Thank our authoring team? Thank the person who first introduced you to CD? How about if we make it fun?!
10th ANNIVERSARY CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT
Share your greeting with us, and the authors of our favorite submissions will receive a complimentary ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to Cultural Detective Online!
As you already know, Cultural Detective Online is a terrific personal development too. But what you may not know is that the user agreement allows you to project the contentsfor your students, trainees or coaches—as long as you tell them Cultural Detective Online is a publicly available tool to which they can subscribe, too. As a colleague told me yesterday,
“Why would any intercultural trainer NOT pay $150 for a TWO YEAR subscription to this tool? It gives me access to over 60 packages, allowing me to conduct such a breadth of quality training!”
Come on, join in the celebration! Your greeting can be as short as you like, funny or serious. We’d love to hear what Cultural Detective means to you, what difference it’s made for you, what impact it’s had on the field. Perhaps you can share a funny story of cross-cultural miscommunication, or share your success—a Cultural Defective or Cultural Effective! We can’t wait! If this series has meant something to you, please take a moment to let us know.
Send your entries by March 15th, 2014. We will contact the winners by email with instructions on how to redeem their prize of a full year’s access to all the content in CD Online, to use on their own or with their students. We can’t wait to receive your message!
Following are a few of the video greetings that we’ve already received, with a bit of background about each:
Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their international support engineers. The first year they used it, they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction directly to Cultural Detective. The Culture and Communication Program staff is truly inspiring. In the clip below, Shalini Thomas shares her greetings with the Cultural Detective community.
AFS, the international exchange organization with operations in more than 50 countries, has long used Cultural Detective with staff, volunteers, students, and host families. Nearly everywhere I travel, anywhere on our planet, there is almost always someone from AFS in the audience. We are thrilled to know that our leaders of tomorrow are developing intercultural competence through our partnership with AFS! I first met Hazar Yildirim in Istanbul, where he and the AFS contingent there gave me a very warm welcome. Now he’s based in New York. Here is what Hazar has to say:
The Intercultural Development Research Institute (IDRI) is committed to longer-term, sustained development of intercultural competence. Their motto is “coherent theory generates powerful practice.” Thus, it means a lot to me when the co-founder of that Institute, Milton Bennett, says Cultural Detective is a tool that truly translates theory into practice and carries on the heritage of the founders of the intercultural field. I met Milton back in 1982, at the Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC).
The last greeting I’ll share with you here comes from another customer, Atieh International, specialists in emerging and risky markets. “The world of today comes filled with new opportunities hidden in a sea of uncertainty and risk. It is our job to assist our clients to understand and be prepared for the tides and waves, the ebbs and flows in each market, to appreciate the beauty and depth of cultures and diversity and to build sustainable strategies founded on reliable intelligence and trust.” We are privileged to be associated with them. Managing Partner Pari Namazie shares her remarks, below.
Please block some time now to make or record your greeting and send it to us! We are looking forward to hearing from you, and we would especially love to share a gift subscription with you! Our authors work hard, not to pursue monetary wealth, but impassioned by a commitment to the vision of everybody having a voice, sharing their gifts, and realizing their potential. Let them know they have made a difference!
We will post the video greetings we receive to the playlist below. Take a look at those we have so far, including greetings from CIEE, Korn Ferry, and EDS. They are very heartening to watch! We look forward to hearing from you!
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!
THE PROBLEM IN BOTH SCENARIOS
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.
Nearly every organization these days, even the smallest and most local, works with diverse customers, team members, vendors, and service providers. A corner grocery store serves people from different age groups, ethnicities, and spiritual traditions. So, which holiday greetings should the grocery store use, if any, so as not to offend or exclude? Why do some of the regular customers talk only to male employees? Could the store increase profits or attract new customers if it started offering halal meats or Latino grocery items?
What about the graphic designer who puts up a website or Facebook page designed to attract local clients, only to find that the first inquiries come in from overseas? The mere fact that you have an online presence can mean you offer your products and services worldwide. And what about the free clinic that finds itself dealing with patient care issues of recent immigrants from places halfway across the planet? Or disaster relief agencies attempting to coordinate aid from around the world, getting it to the places it needs to be, quickly?
Cross-cultural competence, the ability to communicate effectively across cultures, is a mandatory skill in today’s interconnected world. It will help you:
Service diverse customers in the ways they expect.
Attract, retain and make the most of the talented professionals your organization needs to succeed.
Sell more products or services, to the people who need them.
Achieve success in your negotiations.
Discern the “right” mergers and acquisitions for your purposes.
Get more productivity and satisfaction out of your local and virtual teams, projects, and vendors.
Jump start the outcomes of study abroad and international education, as well as expatriate assignments.
Ensure you get the most out of the time and money you invest in international, cross-country and regional business travel.
Develop mutually respectful relationships with clients, employees and other stakeholders.
Cross-cultural competence is a needed skill for all of us, and it helps improve our family and social lives as well as our work lives. But amidst all the competing priorities for our time and attention, how can we develop such competence? To most of us, going back to school or even taking a few days off work for a class isn’t doable. And besides, like physical fitness, cultural fitness requires ongoing, structured practice, not just one trip to a training room.
If only there were an online cross-cultural coach available to us anytime, anywhere, at low cost. One that didn’t make us memorize lists of dos and don’ts, that didn’t promote stereotypes but rather encouraged dialogue and critical thinking. An online coach that would provide a process for recognizing cultural differences, helping us to understand and leverage them as assets rather than as roadblocks. Better yet, an online coach that could help us make sense of our everyday experiences, learning how to transform obstacles into opportunities, and frustration into innovation. A tool we could navigate freely, according to our needs and interests, not some online talking heads or narrated slide show. A tool that would be available on our time — when and where we want it…
I am very excited to be able to share with you just such a solution, yours free for three days, no strings attached. It is a brand new online system based on the proven Cultural Detective Method used by governments, NGOs and for-profit organizations around the world.
Enter your name, email address and the code: Promo3
You will receive a verification email from email@example.com. Click the link in the email, follow the instructions and you will be ready to go!
Enter your learning goals, explore 50+ fully integrated packages including full Values Lenses and 400 Critical Incidents, or upload and debrief your own real-life situations. Your customers, partners and employees, even your family members, will notice the difference!
Improve your ability to understand and collaborate across cultures, and help your friends, family members and colleagues to do the same! Let’s create a more inclusive, creative, collaborative and productive world out there! Get a clue!