Complimentary Resources

Last month I shared with you the newest page on our website, a list of some of the Free Resources we are eager to have you use. In that post I focused on Tools for Training and Education.

In this second installment, I’d like to focus on the resources we have to help you reflect on the approaches you take and the biases inherent in them. You’ll find them in the section entitled, Resources and Articles, and they include:

  1. A terrific piece written by Peter Isackson called “Beyond Cultural Dimensions.” Dimensions of culture are superb tools for understanding and comparing cultures using universal categories. They also, as does any tool, have downsides. Peter discusses both. If this topic is of interest, you may also want to register for our complimentary webinar, “How is Cultural Detective Different from Other Intercultural Tools?
  2. A brilliant article by Cultural Detective Malaysia co-author Asma Abdullah, “Indigenous Contributions to Global Management.”
  3. Links to a series of articles on food, language and values, including Chinese, French and Japanese. Perhaps you’d like to add one of your food fetish languages to the mix? Send your article to us and we’ll consider it!
  4. The inside scoop on “Tiger Moms,” written by the co-author of Cultural Detective South Korea, Eun Young Kim.
  5. Free downloads of several (expensive) journal articles, including:
    1. Productive Behaviors of Global Business Teams from the International Journal of Intercultural Relations
    2. Three entries in the SAGE Encyclopedia for Intercultural Competence

Please use these complimentary resources frequently and well, so that together we can develop intercultural competence in our organizations and communities, thereby building respect, understanding, collaboration and justice!

Resilience Through Resistance

coverAfAmOn this Juneteenth Freedom Day, I am humbled and honored to share with you a significant update in the Cultural Detective African American package. Since these materials were first published four years ago much has changed in the USA and in the African American community. When we initially asked its authors, Kelli McLoud-Schingen and Patricia M. Coleman to update the package, emotions were too raw, wounds too fresh, and the idea itself overwhelming.

“With each face, each name and each court case, members of the African American community see their fathers, their sons, their brothers, their nephews, their lovers, their mothers, their daughters, their nieces, and themselves. The fear in the African American community is palpable, present, and real—and it paralyzes, polarizes, and traumatizes the community.

A year later they sent us a brilliant piece that provides important and often missing or over-looked context to today’s realities of the African American experience. This short essay is especially useful for people who are new to the USA or who just don’t “get” what all the “fuss” is about. I am personally and professionally very grateful to these two talented professionals for their contributions to intercultural understanding.

“There are real values in conflict here. When someone is killed—whether by the police or another citizen, African Americans expect the justice system to work…

When this doesn’t happen, overwhelming grief gives way to unimaginable pain, which, in turn, often gives way to irrepressible rage. When the rage is released, the socially pathological stories of black violence are reinforced, perpetuating the stereotypes that serve to dehumanize an entire group of people.

What we have now is an opportunity to explore why African Americans have had the need, in every generation, to ask the timeless question, “Am I not a full and equal citizen?” It seems the answer should be an unequivocal and resounding “yes,” but the question is most often met with an appalling silence, or worse, a loud “no” backed by legal might.”

Cultural Detective, as you know, is a licensed product, available via subscription (CD Online) or printed PDF at very affordable prices. The topic of race relations in the USA is so crucial, however, that the three of us feel compelled to share the new addition with our entire community. You will find it below. Please put it to good use, whether in combination with your Cultural Detective Online subscription or PDF license.

Free Resources, all in one place

Freebies.jpgCultural Detective is very committed to building respect, collaboration, equity and justice in our world by developing intercultural competence. To that end, we publish extremely effective and affordable materials, we conduct an extensive series of free webinars, and we frequently share activities, designs and resources on this blog.

In order to make it easier for members of our community to access these complimentary resources, we’ve done our best to gather most of them into one place: the “Freebies” section of our website. Gathering all of them is rather untenable, as we’ve been giving stuff away since 2004, but if you find something on our sites that you feel deserves a listing in the Freebies section, please let us know.

I plan to do a series of blog posts about this new page, and I’ll start at the bottom, Tools for Training and Education. There you will find some truly incredible things.

  1. The Four Phase Model for Task Accomplishment in multicultural teams, taken from the classic Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. It provides a proven model for using differences as assets that combines well with and supplements your use of Cultural Detective.
    There are an additional three articles on ways to use Ecotonos in various settings, including in a business class, for conflict resolution, and in a science laboratory.
  2. A terrific article by one of the intercultural field’s most respected researcher/practitioners, Jackie Wasilewski, titled “Collide-o-culture or Kaleid-o-culture? GPS for Human Beings.” If you haven’t read it, you should.
  3. An article written by Barbara F. Schaetti, Heather Robinson, and myself on our go-to approach for developing sustainable intercultural ability, EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence.
  4. Powerpoint slides and information on Interculturalidad in Latin America, and how it compares to similar concepts in North America, Europe and Asia, written by Adriana Medina-López-Portillo.
  5. Link to download a terrific learning game on the refugee and migrant experience, developed by Caritas France and called “On the Road with Migrants.” The game is available in French, English, German, Greek, Italian, and very soon in Portuguese and Spanish.

I am proud of the generosity of our team of authors and our community of certified facilitators and users, to help us make these tools available to all of you. Please use them frequently and well. Together we can promote respect, understanding, collaboration and justice!

Today in the USA

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Asha Deliverance, left, the mother of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, leans in and embraces a woman who approached her at the vigil. Photo by Beth Nakamura/Staff, The Oregonian/OregonLivecaption.  

I almost feel guilty as I write—80+ people were killed in Kabul today and I am focused on two men who were killed in Portland, Oregon, a few days ago. You may have heard about it: three men formed a wall between two young ladies (one wearing a hijab) and a man who was verbally accosting them on a public train. Two of the men ended up dead and a third was seriously wounded. A vigil was held the following evening at the place the attack happened. Here are some photos from it; click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I am convinced that heroic actions take place every day in our world, but we frequently don’t hear about them. This time we did. It happened not far from my house, across the street from where I grocery shop, and just around the corner from our weekend farmers’ market. I didn’t attend the vigil that was held for our local heroes. But the reports from those that did spoke of the kindness and love that was evident—and the gratitude for those who had stood up to hate.

Right now, from outside of the US, it may look as if our country has changed since our new president was inaugurated. And in many ways it has. Some people are more comfortable making and hearing racist statements than they were before the election. They feel they no longer have to be “politically correct” and can say and do whatever they feel. After all, they are just following the example of the president.

But many people are not accepting these “new norms” and are actively and quietly doing their jobs to make sure the laws of the country are upheld. A few examples follow.

  1. When the “travel ban” was abruptly instituted, a group of state attorneys general worked diligently over the weekend to prepare the case to take to court on Monday morning. Many corporate attorneys whose companies were affected, university attorneys whose students were stuck overseas, and other interested legal organizations gave up their weekends with family to help prepare the necessary documents.
  2. Amidst the noise of ongoing “Russia investigations” and leaks and counter-leaks, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his staff are quietly doing their jobs—investigating the accusations and finding out what actually took place and what didn’t. It may look from the outside as if nothing is happening because you will hear no tweets or leaks from that group—they are just doing their jobs.
  3. I belong to a local neighborhood online group. Two weeks ago, there was a post with a lengthy list of furniture and clothing needs for a recently arrived Syrian family. Within a few hours, the items were donated and the family had a comfortable home to settle into. And it wasn’t the first time the neighborhood had pitched in; this was at least the third similar request in the last six months.

So what is my point? Individuals can and do make a difference. Everyday. In the most unexpected places and in unexpected ways. Kindness matters. Civility matters.

Cultural Detective provides a method to help us understand others who are different from ourselves. It provides a way to listen and understand another’s view, whether or not you agree. Get a clue and check out CD Online—and use your intercultural skills to share a little kindness in a culturally appropriate way.

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language

Language and culture are so very closely related and intertwined. Many say we can’t truly understand a culture without speaking the language. Others say we can’t effectively use a language without knowing the culture; without cultural context we are “fluent fools.”

Multilinguals know that our behaviors and ways of thinking change when we speak various languages, but do our morals also vary? A few fascinating studies have been conducted recently that shed light on how our moral compasses shift when we operate in different languages. English-French-Czech speaker Julie Sedivy summarizes the results of such research very ably in an article in Scientific American.

She reports that one study, about hypothetical responses to a trolley accident (should we sacrifice one person to save five?), shows that our moral decision-making shifts when we are speaking a language that is not a native one. A second research project, this one involving participants’ responses to morally reprehensible behavior (sex with a sibling, eating one’s pet after it has died), had similar findings: actions are judged less wrong when read in a non-native language.

Why is this? One hypothesis is that when we speak a non-native language, we are more deliberate; we circumvent our quick “gut” reaction and consider the greatest good for the greatest number. Another possibility is that our childhood language(s) are filled with more emotional connections than are academically acquired languages; thus, our responses are different, depending on the language in which we are operating.

Bilinguals, for example, are more likely to recall a memory if they are prompted in the language in which the event took place, according to one study. Yet another research project went deeper, showing that the emotional response to taboo words—and especially to reprimands (so common in childhood)—were statistically stronger in one’s native language. Study participants often reported that they “heard” the reprimands in the “voice” of a close relative.

A study published in the journal Cognition showed that people placed greater weight on outcomes and less on intentions when making moral judgments in a non-native language. Examples in this study included good intentions/bad outcomes, such as giving a homeless person a new jacket, and then the recipient gets beaten up when someone steals it from him; and good outcomes spurred by dubious motives, such as a family adopting a disabled child in order to receive money from the government. These results would seem to support the idea that people have more muted emotional responses/less empathy or sympathy in a non-native language.

None of the studies, of course, show us what a multilingual person’s “true” moral self is. Julie’s conclusion summarizes this paradox:

“Is it my moral memories, the reverberations of emotionally charged interactions that taught me what it means to be ‘good’? Or is it the reasoning I’m able to apply when free of such unconscious constraints? Or perhaps, this line of research simply illuminates what is true for all of us, regardless of how many languages we speak: that our moral compass is a combination of the earliest forces that have shaped us and the ways in which we escape them.”

Cultural Detective will not teach you a foreign language, but using it will help you to get into the mindset of those you work with, live in community with, or love. Using Cultural Detective Self Discovery will deepen your understanding of your personal values and moral guidelines, while Cultural Detective Blended Culture can help you understand how our values and moral compass shift when we define ourselves as a mix of ethnicities, races, religions, or nationalities. Exploring Cultural Detective Global Business Ethics allows us to sharpen our understanding of ethics and morals across cultures, while Cultural Detective Global Teamwork enables us to navigate and bridge the differences. All of these packages are among the 67 packages included in any subscription to Cultural Detective Online. At just $35US/user, it is an incredible value on the investment, offering personalized coaching and group collaboration. Learn more about a subscription today!

Cross-cultural Teaming in a Laboratory

This is a guest blog post written by Amy Prunuske and Katie Nemeth. Their biographies follow the text.

lab-1825276The laboratory is a multicultural environment that stimulates innovation but also contributes to misunderstandings. Scientists often have formal training in research techniques, but rarely in communication, and particularly not in cross-cultural communication.

In the University of Wisconsin biochemistry laboratory in which Amy did her research training, there were lab mates from Korea, Germany, Japan, India, and Poland, as well as the USA. This diversity is vital for the development of new ideas, but it can also create communication challenges. Many of the undergraduates in the US Midwest come to the university with minimal exposure to people from different backgrounds, so it is important to help them understand that different cultures have differing verbal and nonverbal rules mediating social interactions.

During Katie’s postdoctoral training, she participated in many active learning and training workshops. While diversity and inclusivity were part of the lesson designs, she wondered if and how students could become actively mindful of the role that culture plays in a group setting. Seeking out ideas, she participated in non-science workshops and discovered Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. After finding this vital missing link, Katie worked with Amy to add the experiential learning component to various courses and groups in the biology department.

We have found that Ecotonos is an amazing way to expose scientists to the existence of cultural differences and how to use them as assets. As part of the activity, students are divided into three monocultural groups: Delphenius, Zante, and Aquila—each with a unique set of cultural characteristics. Ecotonos comes with ten sets of rule cards, three case studies and three different tasks, so students can play the game repeatedly and each time it’s different. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

In our work with the biology students, we have them practice their new cultural rules by creating a flag that represents the values of their culture (see pictures). The students in the monocultural groups enjoy taking on these new characteristics, with some finding it easy and others finding it challenging to behave in new ways.

After the monocultural work, participants are re-sorted into multicultural groups of different structures: minority-majority, joint venture with balanced populations, and diverse membership with representatives of all three cultures. In their multicultural groups, we have them rank the performance of three hypothetical workers, with the three workers demonstrating characteristics similar to one of the three sets of group rules. This exposes the participants to the ways in which we can be biased toward people with behaviors similar to those of our own culture, and allows students to practice getting beyond their biases.

We have used the program as part of the introduction to the biology laboratory, where they will be expected to work in groups, as well as in programs for undergraduates from groups under-represented in the sciences.

Ecotonos is a great ice breaker activity for the students to get to know their classmates, and students often carry forward some of the behaviors learned during the activity, like snapping in approval, as part of creating a new shared culture for their group. Most students find the activity to be fun, and leave it with a much greater appreciation for the challenges of working across cultures.

Here’s a typical student comment: “It was helpful to understand how difficult it might be interacting with a different culture for the first time.” This is an important lesson for scientists, who often believe their discipline is a meritocracy not subject to the biases that are universally found. We are currently measuring the impact of Ecotonos using the cultural intelligence assessment.

We would like to thank Dr. Shelley Smith for introducing Ecotonos to us.  We are grateful for the time she took to share her expertise in running the activity.

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Amy Prunskee is a Faculty Curriculum Program Manager and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Medical College of Wisconsin — Central Wisconsin.

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Katie Nemeth is an Assistant Professor of the teaching faculty in College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN.

 

2017 Professional Development Calendar

smartphone-1445489Do you work in a multicultural, geographically dispersed team or organization? Do you lead one? Are you charged with developing diversity and inclusion competence, or intercultural competence, in your students, colleagues or clients? Would you benefit from an intercultural competence tool that looks at people as unique individuals influenced by multiple different cultures (organizational, professional training, age/generation, spiritual tradition) and teaches critical thinking in context?

If so, you will want to attend one of our Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification programs. Use of Cultural Detective does not require certification—the Cultural Detective Method and materials were designed with the idea that they could be used by interested non-specialists. However, the Cultural Detective Series is so robust that users often ask for in-depth workshops to learn more about the many applications and strengths of this approach, and to network with peers using the Cultural Detective Method.

Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshops are designed for small groups who share two-and-a-half days of intense, guided interaction; current schedule of workshops is below. We explore what “intercultural communication competence” means and offer ways to use Cultural Detective to enhance intercultural effectiveness in your organization or community. We have three public sessions on the calendar for 2017:

  1. IRELAND, Dublin, 22-24 May
  2. USA, Portland OR, 22-23 July
  3. AUSTRIA, Vienna, 23-25 November

Register now to secure your seat as spaces are limited. Certification Workshops are a wonderful way for the advanced practitioner to reflect on the things that matter, and develop the ability to combine and integrate various theories, approaches, and tools in the field. We explore the impact of multiple cultures on each of us, the idea of layering Value Lenses to visually represent these influences, and a variety of ways to incorporate Cultural Detective into your training, teaching and coaching.

Immigration Syllabus

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Today, immigration historians from across the USA launched #ImmigrationSyllabus, a website and educational resource to help the public understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates. Created in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and made available through the University of Minnesota Libraries, #ImmigrationSyllabus is a tool for teaching, learning and advocacy. The full 15-week syllabus with weekly themes, primary sources and multimedia is available online at immigrationsyllabus.umn.edu.

“I am proud to be collaborating with colleagues across the United States in this important initiative,” said Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the U of M. “With current debates and federal actions on immigration, understanding the historical context of immigration in this nation is more vital than ever.”

The syllabus seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship. The syllabus follows a chronological overview of U.S. immigration history, but it also includes thematic weeks that cover salient issues in political discourse today such as xenophobia, deportation policy, and border policing. Listing essential topics and readings and linking to historical documents and multimedia sources, #ImmigrationSyllabus helps answer important questions such as:

  • Who has come to the United States and why?
  • Why has immigration been such a hotly debated topic then – and now?
  • When and why did the U.S. start building walls and banning and deporting immigrants?
  • What were the consequences of those policies?
  • What’s “new” about new immigration to the United States?
  • What lessons might we learn as we move forward?

Part of a recent academic movement to respond to pressing current events, the #ImmigrationSyllabus follows the #TrumpSyllabus, which helped readers understand Donald Trump’s political success during the 2016 Presidential campaign; the #FergusonSyllabus, which inspired conversations about race, violence and activism in classrooms; and the#StandingRockSyllabus, which heightened awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline and placed the #NoDAPL protests into historical context.

Inclusion in Cyberspace?

I am pleased to present you a very interesting guest blog post written by John Gieryn, about inclusion and intercultural competence in online communities.

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The internet was a promise of open access and global inclusion, but has this been realized? You have most likely felt or heard hints of the web’s democratizing potential. You might have also sensed that the internet isn’t living up to this potential, and that barriers to global access and equity are yet to be bridged. The internet was born in a time before 4G access and smartphones. The current design of our web no longer supports the progress of society and is in need of a major remodel to ensure it supports inclusion, and a social cohesion that fosters both cultural and individual diversity. I write this post as a call to action. My hope is to spark discourse, the sharing of challenges and examples, lessons learned, and practical ways towards self- and group-improvement in the arenas of open source design, participatory organization and online collaboration.

Background
I’m a digital native, having communed and convened through the web since I was young. For the last nine months, the majority of my social and professional interactions have occurred online. Engaging with what I’d consider progressive and impressively democratic networks, I’ve seen and heard surprisingly little in open source design communities on intercultural competence seeking.

My interest in such competence began from a painful yet most valuable experience. For six years I have been working primarily as a community organizer, within the framework of social change. At the end of my first year, I had the opportunity to learn in a personal and powerful way what my privilege meant. A long story short: myself and two other males had been dominating the conversation in a non-hierarchical, direct-action collective, in the midst of the biggest protest movement Wisconsin has ever seen, and several women of color felt unable to bring their issues up for a period of months. The outtake was a dramatic pair of sessions, six hours each, that were necessary to reestablish the balance and harmony of our group.

I’m cis, white, and male, from the lower-middle class. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much easier I can move through my world than others who don’t have these same privilege-granting characteristics. It was just easier, more comfortable, for me to speak than for people whose experiences differed vastly from my own. This balancing lesson taught me how to authentically collaborate through the lens of power with instead of power over, and it continues to shape my work and increase its effectiveness.

In my current work online, the lessons I learned about balancing power have become harder to apply, because 1) I can’t always tell who is in a virtual room, 2) it’s harder to determine what privileges are held by those present, and 3) asynchronous communication lacks many of the visual cues that are so helpful in facilitating safe(r) spaces and recognizing when someone is in discomfort or shut down. With the loss of visual cues and physical presence, new tactics are required for safeguarding groups from imbalances and reversing disparities when they occur (e.g. asking someone for a quick face-to-face after an online meeting can feel very different than it might in a face-to-face meeting).

Why Intercultural Competence Matters
Cultural competence is defined as “a complex, psychosocial and socio-cultural process of cultural awareness, content knowledge, and applied or practice skills. It is as an active, developmental, and ongoing process, one that is aspirational rather than achieved,” (. It is the awareness of cultures, the distinctions of their context, their sense-making, and their values and norms and the applied practice of interacting with them through communication and other collaborative processes in appropriate and competent ways. Beyond being a fair or just concept, intercultural competence is just plain effective, as it can activate and sustain collective action in many ways, especially through Social Capital. Cultural Detective, since it helps people develop intercultural competence, can thus play a role in activating social capital.

Beyond being a fair or just concept, intercultural competence is just plain effective, as it can activate and sustain collective action in many ways, especially through Social Capital.

Benefits of Social Capital
Social Capital is a concept used to identify resources that are neither human nor financial, but interpersonal. It’s important to note that the phrase “social capital” is problematic, as “capital” has represented a relationship of domination and oppression for half a millennium or more. I use the term (without intending these connotations) as it is widely used in the literature I cite, and is useful until a better naming emerges. The resources found in “cross-cutting personal relationships…provide the basis for trust, cooperation, and collective action in such communities,” write Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998). In that same paper, they found it useful to identify three dimensions of social capital— structural, cognitive, and relational— though they admit there is much interrelation between each.

The structural dimension refers to the makeup of the network, who relates to whom and how strongly. The cognitive dimension refers to the self-rated expertise and tenure one might have; self-efficacy, or control belief (the belief that my actions will yield the intended results) has a significant effect on whether one will intend to do anything, let alone participate in an online community.

The relational dimension has the largest potential impact, in my opinion, for the way online communities organize. Relational Capital can be further broken down into four aspects.

Rela Capital.png

In a group that has high amounts of Relational Capital, it’d be likely that:

  • A member has confidence in the other group members
  • Members identify with the group
  • Members feel a sense of obligation to participate in the group; I’ve renamed this interdependence above, since it is a primary cause of this commitment
  • Members understand and abide by group norms. This may be reinforced through sanctions

Intercultural Competence for Collective Action
Relational Capital is where intercultural competence can be effectively leveraged in order to build collective action and increase knowledge sharing in online communities. Intercultural competence, as I explained above, means being able to understand someone’s cultural context, communicate in ways that are appropriate, and take actions that are mutually understood. I’d also describe it as being fully present with someone. Such competence is required to build confidence, create shared identity, communicate and form norms, and enable commitment. Intercultural competence strengthens all of the components of Relational Capital.

Another leg of the stool for collective action, that I’ve depicted below, is reciprocity. Studies, “consistently found that reciprocity is critical for sustaining supportive relationships and collective action” (Chechen 2013). Intercultural competence is key to reciprocity because, in any exchange, understanding the context of someone’s culture and the ways that they send & receive signals is critical. How can you return the favor if you don’t know what you’ve received? How can you pay it forward if you don’t know what you gave, in the eyes of the other person? This is why online communities need intercultural competence.

In future articles I hope to write more about some of the other concepts depicted in this Collective Action Hypothesis, above. The dotted lines are my personal understandings, and the solid lines are backed up with formal academic research.

Call To Action

If we are to reach the admirable, attainable goals of the internet—to bring democracy, inclusion, and access to people everyone around the globe—then intercultural competence must be on the agenda. The Open Source movement, as well as participatory organizations and any online collaboration, have much to gain from prioritizing dialogue and resource sharing on intercultural best practices, as cultural competence is a key component of open access to tech.

I invite people to share any resources, comments, or quotes by making a suggestion here. I also hope that you will spark these sorts of conversations, and share these types of resources, with your community. Continuous learning and diverse lenses have the capacity to transform our world into a more sustainable, flourishing home. So please— stay curious.

Resources + Examples

  • The World Value Survey created this very interesting cultural map depicting traditional values versus secular-rational values and survival values versus self-expression values
  • “The Challenges of Managing Cross-Cultural Virtual Project Teams” research paper on the challenge of leadership, virtual aspects of communications and developing trustMany of the online resources I found were proprietary. However, this
  • 6 Levels of Culture diagram was helpful; the DIE assessment is a freely accessible & widely used method to teach cognitive flexibility, frame of reference shifting and curiosity
  • Short videos, like this one on New Zealand & German cultural differences, can be helpful

References

  • Carroll, Doris Wright. “A Model of Cultural Competence in Open Source Systems.” Safari. IGI Global, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
  • Chechen Liao Pui-Lai To Fang-Chih Hsu , (2013),”Exploring knowledge sharing in virtual communities”, Online Information Review, Vol. 37 Iss 6 pp. 891 – 909.
  • Faraj, Molly Mclure Wasko; Samer, and Wasko. “Why Should I Share? Examining Social Capital and Knowledge Contribution in Virtual Communities” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
  • Nahapiet, Janine, and Sumantra Ghoshel. “Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage.” Academy of Management Review 23.2 (1998): 119-57. Web.

john gieryn | @coopchange | john(at)enspiral.com Licensed  CC BY-SA 4.0

Study Supports Ecotonos’ Effectiveness

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“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.”

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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.