Turning the Page on Intercultural Research

Interculturalists are familiar with the range of approaches to culture in the social sciences and the intercultural field itself. Many of us started with the rather positivist and essentialist studies that provided initial insights, first best guesses into the behavior of cultural groups, but were also a slippery slope in the direction of bias and stereotyping. Subsequently, we have been turning our attention toward the iconic, memes, linguistic, performative and social constructionist approaches and storytelling as elements and theories for understanding and using culture, as well as teaching about it and applying it to the challenges we face. These can often show up as disparate and unintegrated perspectives.
Mai Nguyen’s book could best be described as “turning the page” on intercultural research, learning and practice, not because it negates these earlier and continuing efforts, but because it puts them into perspective. It clarifies both where they may remain useful and where they no longer serve us, or even fail us in the light of what neuroscientific research and cognitive science are revealing about the integral nature of human beings and how we function. We have landed on a “fresh page” in the face of long centuries of dichotomist thinking and credence that divided us into mind vs. meat, spirit vs. matter, body vs. soul, and so forth.
This can be hard to digest, but accepting our human integrity opens the door to a more holistic view of the genesis, development and creation of the elements of culture in and around us. Culture is the result and the agent in our unique capacity to create what we need on all levels to survive and succeed in existing and newly developing environments. It is the unique, agile, adaptive human capability that has largely taken over from, though it interacts with our slow genetic evolutionary development found in us and in the rest of nature. This in turn offers us new levels of awareness and self-understanding, as well as fresh and effective ways of managing self, relationships, communities, organizations, commerce and the ecological environment we are immersed in. In the words of the author, “Culture is not just socially learned, but geographically influenced, genetically inherited, and neurally enabled.”
This is a large book with an enormous range of content, providing insight, consequences and tools for management of organizations, leadership, collaboration and even marketing, along with solid documentation and references. But it is far more than an academic publication or a business book, as it is able to identify the role of and integrate neuroscience into how we see globalization and manage diversity, how we motivate self and others and how we communicate and negotiate. The agenda is formidable. Going forward, there is much to unpack, explore and try out as we root ourselves in our new sense of human integrity. At the same time, we become alert to the power of investigative neurobiology and psychological ventures that will more and more involve artificial intelligence and elements that have already begun to “hack” our human systems. We see a potential for great good, health and new potential as well as possibilities for manipulation, control and exploitation. As we navigate in both opportune and dangerous times, the understanding and support found in these pages make the book a “must read” for opening avenues for reworking our social, personal and work lives.
With the insights and tips furnished by the author, one can easily implement insightful approaches to communication and negotiation, creating new levels of understanding and more effective decisions and settlements. For example, one highly functional model, STREAP-Be, offers a path that addresses the fundamental aspects of a change process. The acronym stands for: Safety, Trigger, Reward, Emotion, Alignment, People, and Behavior. It applies neuroscientific savvy, instructions for creating the trust, the actions, the motivation, the essential human reactions and social behaviors needed for solid progress in new directions. The model contains step-by-step the path toward effective change by paying careful attention to the simple human dynamics of perception, feeling, framing ideas, releasing energy, telling and aligning personal and cultural stories that provide a common context for facing and meeting a change challenge. STREAP-Be delivers the antidote to the lazy brain’s need to wake up, to its “control freak” resistance to the unfamiliar and the uncertain, and to its slothful tendency to replicate the past rather than innovating a desirable future.
When approaching culture as we seek to manage diversity, the book provides two very essential perspectives. First, we need to develop contextual awareness about how culture is created, used and interpreted. Context, not culture itself, is the software of the mind, the operational environment of culture’s interpretation, application and development. Secondly, in approaching intercultural learning and cultural competence, we need to assume a positive rather than a problematic perspective, curiosity rather than fear of mistakes. Culture, seen as an iceberg, is cold, formidable, a hazard. It is easy to get frozen into the do’s and don’ts and catastrophic what if’s, rather than connecting via our sameness while recognizing difference as a trove of treasures to be explored, a bowl of cherries to be shared.

Theater Facilitates Difficult Conversations

American DreamsIncreasingly US American families are split between red and blue, torn over how to deal with issues ranging from immigration to women’s bodies to world trade. Young and old report that they no longer talk politics or religion with even their closest friends; there seems to be no space for the crucially important task of discussing and thinking deeply in community about important yet delicate matters facing the nation.

News feeds now have razor-thin aim, reinforcing what we already believe, hardening and emotionalizing beliefs into convictions so that we feel anger towards our neighbors. Amidst this reality are frequent revelations about foreign powers feeding the frenzy of hatred; their active fomenting of division within US American society is the newest weapon of mass destruction.

How do we reclaim our public spaces for civil discourse? Can we think things through together, deeply and constructively, without degenerating into insults? One new hope has presented itself in the form of an extremely well-reviewed interactive play called “American Dreams.” According to the website, “American Dreams” is:

“An immersive, interactive theatrical event that imagines a world where the only way to become a U.S. citizen is by competing in a nationally-televised game show run by the U.S. government.

The live “studio” audience votes after each of the five rounds, determining which contestant will win the ultimate prize — citizenship to the “greatest country on earth.”

Weaving multiple levels of audience engagement with up-to-the-moment questions about immigration and citizenship, this playful participatory performance invites us to explore who and what we choose to believe — and how those choices shape who we are as people, communities, and nations.

Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow:


“American Dreams” creates a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of critical thinking as well as a bit of learning about the laws of the USA and the rights of its citizens and residents. CPT’s Executive Artistic Director, Raymond Bobgan, says the play captures the fact that:

“To live in the Unites States now is to always live in that tension between desire for freedom and equality for all people and at the same time the desire to protect what we have achieved.”

The performance will be making a “Red State Swing State Tour” in summer 2020, and the next important step is to bring “American Dreams” to your community to help recapture civil public discourse and critical thinking; enough of the “dumbing down” of the USA by outside powers and our own laziness or righteousness! Click here to learn about bringing the show to your city!

En el Recorrido con los Migrantes

migrants-2-7123cCaritas France has a terrific learning game about migrants that is available in several languages; we’ve reported about this learning game before.

Well over a year ago Cultural Detective led a wonderful team of talented people who voluntarily translated “On the Road with Migrants” into Spanish. We did our best to keep the language neutral, universal, international. Such is not so easy in  Spanish, as you may know, but we did our best.

Caritas has not yet uploaded that version, but you can download it here. It is free to use, though you will need to print out the game boards and cards, and purchase game pieces.

Thank you for helping Caritas and us to help this world develop beyond “tolerance” and into inclusion and cross-cultural justice, equity and collaboration!

 

More Excellent Free Gifts

I just downloaded a wonderful high-resolution jpg of an equal-area projection Peters Map of the world for FREE thanks to Bob Abramms and our friends at ODT Maps, and you can, too!

The Peters Map jpg is branded with the Doctors Without Borders logo, but, hey, you can print it out most any size you want; it is a terrific asset to a classroom, training room, meeting room, etc. Click here to download your copy.

While you’re at it, you can also download a Hobo-Dyer equal-area projection map via this link. This one is not quite as usable, as it has the Carter Center data all over it. But, it is high-resolution and free.

In Bob’s and ODT’s incredible retirement generosity, they have uploaded other free things you can get your hands on:

We are not retiring BUT, as always, Cultural Detective offers a huge selection of freebies, accessible and downloadable anytime here.

Bless you for helping build intercultural competence, respect, justice, equity, inclusion and collaboration in this polarized world of ours! You are doing vital work.

Webinar Registration for Prisoners of Our Prisms

The award-winning book, Perception And Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures, written by Joe Lurie and published by Cultural Detective, has just been released in its second, revised edition. Each chapter now includes application questions which are great for classroom use, book club discussions, and executive or team development purposes.

Joe Lurie, an extraordinary storyteller who is Executive Director Emeritus of the University of California Berkeley’s International House, will offer a complimentary one-hour webinar full of his trademark stories on Tuesday, 23rd April, 2019, at 9:00 am Los Angeles time. Entitled, Prisoners of Our Prisms: Understanding Sources of Misunderstandings Across Cultures, the webinar will highlight how and why participants perceive and interpret the same image differently and how intercultural stories and activities from the book can be used to heighten self awareness—a fundamental premise for enhancing intercultural skills and insights.

The event is free of charge but registration is required. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Excellent New Classroom Tool & a Great Read!

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We are thrilled to announce that this award-winning volume is newly updated with application questions for each chapter and fully integrates with your Cultural Detective Online subscription! Purchase it now for your classroom or for holiday gifting.

Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures, 2nd edition, by Joe Lurie, Cross-Cultural Communications Trainer, Speaker and Emeritus Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s International House

What do your experiences tell you when you’re in line behind a bald man: Is he a militant? A monk? A punk? A neo-Nazi?… Or perhaps a cancer patient?

With YouTube, tweets and fake news instantly crossing cultures without context in this time of globalization, it’s essential to understand the actual meanings and intentions behind words, images and actions that seem abnormal or provocative. In line, online and off-line, we’re meeting many more “strangers.” There’s new wisdom in the Lebanese proverb: “Every stranger is a blind man.” And so, we face an urgency to teach students and professionals far more about other cultures and give them the intercultural skills to navigate globalization’s turbulent waters. That’s why, in collaboration with Cultural Detective, I’ve greatly expanded the first award-winning edition of Perception And Deception, A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures.

Think globalization is bringing us closer together? Think again. With refugees crossing cultures without preparation on either side, the dangers of intercultural miscommunication are intensifying. Why do many refugees traumatized by violence find Western “talk therapy” alienating? As a Syrian refugee confided, “I can’t share my painful, humiliating stories with a stranger.” A Sudanese refugee was diagnosed “psychotic” because she seemed to be talking to herself; her Boston psychiatrist was unaware that in her world, conversing with ancestors is normal. Some French see a Muslim woman in a burkina—a full body suit—as oppressed or as a potential terrorist. Yet the woman considers her burkini liberating, because she can swim modestly. Recently, a UC Berkeley student with a Spanish last name was snidely asked when she’d return to Mexico. Her angered response, “I’m from Kansas and I don’t speak Spanish.”

To enable use of the well-received stories in the first edition as springboards for developing intercultural competence, I’ve added a broad array of interactive questions and activities at the end of each chapter in this expanded new edition, as well as a brand new chapter, “Globalization and its Disconnects—Convergence Without Context.” It focuses in large part on the spiraling misunderstandings across cultures, especially in the worlds of refugees, religion, and responses to technology.

To better cope with the disrupting forces of globalization, each chapters’ questions and activities are designed to develop and heighten cultural self-awareness and sensitivity to others, among students, individuals and groups of all backgrounds and professions. Some of the included interactive, personalized activities are available for those who take advantage of Cultural Detective‘s superb, research-based, internationally tested online platform providing access to nearly 70 packages of rich intercultural material: Cultural Detective Online; other questions are useful on their own, without a subscription.

Below is a two-minute video recorded at the Commonwealth Club of California, introducing the first edition:

May the new edition’s stories and interactive activities addressing the disrupting forces of globalization and migration offer positive paths for engaging with difference without fear and by seeing with new eyes!

For further information and reviews about the book, or to order it from Amazon, visit PerceptionAndDeception.com; and to learn more about Cultural Detective’s anytime, anywhere intercultural competence development toolbox and virtual coach visit: www.CulturalDetective.com/cdonline.

CD India Version 2

We are proud to announce a brand-new, complete update to Cultural Detective India. As you know, we update our Cultural Detective packages a few times a year, in minor ways, as things happen around the world. Values seem to be the slowest things to change. Societal shifts take time and then, once they happen, boom! Big changes are afoot. We have a best-selling India package in our series, one that gets rave reviews, and we have been looking a long time for fresh eyes and new energy to update Professor Madhukar Shukla‘s terrific work. I am pleased as punch to report to you that two incredibly talented interculturalists have added to the greatness of this package: Shilpa Subramaniam and Melanie Martinelli. Read on for a bit of back story on this wonderful new version.

When we first discussed updating the Cultural Detective India package, we realised that we were both very drawn to the work. Being interculturalists, avid travellers and facilitators of intercultural sessions, we both felt that we could bring a different flavour to the package.

Our biggest challenge was collaborating, as our travel schedules and calendars didn’t really put us in the same geography! So it might not come as a surprise that our first brainstorming session was in a car when we were travelling out of the city (Bangalore in this case) to co-facilitate a session.

The picture above is the two of us sitting next to the river Cauvery and brainstorming our way through the package! What was so interesting about that conversation was that both of us have such different perspectives: Melanie is a Swiss national who has lived and worked in India for more than a decade and is married to an Indian; Shilpa is Indian born, was brought up all over the country and has lived and worked outside of it. And yet, we found powerful experiences and threads that we had in common when living/ working / experiencing this wonderfully diverse country. Cultural Detective strives to have authors work in teams on packages, to have this insider-outsider joint perspective, and we quickly learned why that is invaluable.

We had quite a few “breakthroughs” during the process of brainstorming and writing the CD India package, but perhaps the most interesting one was when we tested out the idea of “privilege” being one of the core Indian values. In India, privilege isn’t just hierarchy and status, it is this clear-cut idea that if you belong to a certain social strata, then there are certain privileges that are ascribed to you, and these privileges differ across strata, class and religion. Yet the word “privilege” could have such negative connotations to some that it might not fit the golden rule of core country values—no value is positive or negative, they are neutral because they can be perceived both ways. So, while we both agreed on the fact that we needed to talk (or rather write) about privilege, we wanted to find ways to present multiple facets and sides to the concept and how it manifests itself in India.

Another interesting moment was recognizing that the reason India as a culture can be complex to understand is because it has so many shades of grey. For example, communication can be direct yet indirect depending on the situation. So what could we tell our participants/readers about the communication style in India? Therein was born our new, cool (even if we say so ourselves!) table that makes distinctions among the ways in which different values are manifested across urban or rural environments, generations, in multinational corporations and domestic business. The objective of this table is to help the reader understand how the same value can be demonstrated in different—and sometimes even opposite—ways. We hope that the underlying message that is the integral CD message: always analyse the context of any situation while trying to understand or decode it.

The newly revised CD India package builds on the previous version and is updated based on current social, economic, political and business contexts. It has a lot more practical and hands-on tips and best practices for those who are living and working in India, because that’s what we as authors look for when we take off to another country. We’ve ensured that there are elements that speak to what this information means to you if you’re working and/or doing business in India. It’s been written with a lot of care (we’ve tried to stay away from declaratives), excitement (we’re getting to shape how the country is perceived!) and thought (we discarded version after version until we were satisfied with it)!

Come and take the journey to India through our new Cultural Detective India package, now available in CD Online as well as via printed PDF, and explore its vastness, complexity and uniqueness! Happy travels!

Cultural Detective at SIETAR Japan

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I am so very thrilled that the SIETAR Chapter I spent six years of my life co-birthing and stewarding has grown up and is hosting this SIETAR Global Conference! Due to family events I can not be there, which is heartbreaking. I know it will be fantastic and I soooooooo wish I could be there to guide my dear colleagues and friends around my beloved, adopted second home.

We will, however, have SEVERAL Cultural Detective authors present, and at least two of them have let me know they will be presenting workshops that involve Cultural Detective. Both these sessions sound fantastic and I trust you’ll be able to make them.

Enjoy! Learn! Network! And please know I’m present in spirit and heart.

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An Israeli Would Ask, “What’s the Problem Here?” Understanding the Very “Directest” Israeli Mindset

Workshop by CD Israel author Anat Kedem Meidan
Sat. August 11, 10:30 am – 12:20 pm
Going beyond stereotypes for deeper learning of the underlying core values and drivers that shape characteristic Israeli behaviors, norms and attitudes. Examining culture gaps between Israel and Japan to apply appropriate bridges across cultural differences.

 

Israelis have a distinct approach to life and interactions as well as unique ways of working. Norms and assumptions governing behavior – in particular regarding communication style, hierarchy and conflict – derive from deep-set values and an inherent ‘cultural sense’ that cannot be understood without looking at the historical and geographical context in which Israel operates. These norms are instrumental in creating Israel’s competitive edge, but they can also sabotage relationships and lead to frustration. Learning about the Israeli mindset is a necessity when interfacing with a culture where a key value is ‘maximum freedom, minimum restraint’, a culture where challenging everything all the time is encouraged and the preferred communication style is “dugri” – a “telling it like it is”, confrontational style.

Israeli and Japanese cultures share core values of focus on relationships and emphasis on hospitality. These similarities can be used to build trust between those needing to interact across the Japan/Israel interface. However, similarities can be misleading when overlooking cultural gaps. The result is that it often comes as a surprise that differences in approach to how things get done can lead to misunderstandings and end up sabotaging the group’s collaboration and capacity to reach set goals and objectives.

In this interactive workshop we will experience the Cultural Detective® — a critical incident-based tool for developing intercultural skills. In keeping with the conference theme of “Facing Uncertain Times Together: Strengthening Intercultural Connections,” the Cultural Detective takes its users from awareness to culturally appropriate bridging actions. In a detective-like manner, it provides a process for de-constructing and addressing challenges when encountering any intercultural dilemma, anywhere.

Using a Japanese/Israeli critical incident, participants will uncover underlying core values that shape behaviors, norms and attitudes. They will identify cultural gaps and apply a powerful bridging process for collaborating successfully across cultures.

Culturally Competent Training with Cognitive Integrity:
110 minute workshop with 8-time CD author George Simons
Creating and updating our intercultural learning tools to benefit from the latest developments in neuroscience and cognition

The approach taken toward cultural competence in this workshop relies on postmodern, linguistic, performative, iconic and constructionist thinking, drawing on recent research in neurologic and cognitive sciences. This means that fully interactive, holistic activities, performed in a safe space, and reflection on them will form the basis of our learning, rather than traditional positivistic and static essentialist thought definition presented in content lecture. In this workshop, we will actively explore a number of the first steps toward contemporary cultural know-how based on whole person engagement and reflection. We will conduct activities and exercises together in a variety of experiential holistic dimensions:

  1. Narrative and story-telling explorations of personal and cultural identities that will assist us to become aware of our own perspectives, feelings and inclinations, as well as those of others with whom we engage, as we respectfully elicit their stories and tell our own.
  2. Learning and practicing specific skills for recognizing and managing the frames in which we conceive of ourselves and others and how we operate out of and learning how we can modify these frames.
  3. With non-verbal and kinetic exercises, we will explore the physical spaces in which we live, move, encounter others and communicate, along with feeling their shifting contextual dynamics. Debrief will connect the workshop activities with everyday life in multicultural environments and explore ways in which we can continue to apply what is learned here to broaden our capacity for difference we experience with others.

 

Certification in Oregon

Portland-20917The summer has gotten off to a running start, that is for sure! If you’ve been wanting to get certified in Cultural Detective, to transform how you work in this world to develop intercultural competence in yourself and others, get online and register now! This approach looks at people as complex individuals with unique personalities, influenced by multiple layers of culture. Cultural Detective is practical, theoretically sound, developmentally appropriate, and immediately useful.

Tatyana Fertelmeyster will be conducting a two-day workshop between sessions at SIIC, the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, on Thursday and Friday the 26th and 27th of July. Click here for more information, and click here to register. This is the only public certification on our calendar at this time.

Haziz and Our New Iranian Friends

I am in Dubai to present at a conference directed by the author of Cultural Detective Arab Gulf, Abdulhamied Alromaithy. His wife, Layla Al Bloushi, will moderate my panel. It’s my first time here, so I’m excited. Today was my tenth anniversary cancer-free, and we planned to celebrate by going to the top of the Burj Khalifa. It was beautiful.

In the morning, however, we walked around the old part of the city. Greg and I were fascinated by the organized chaos of the port. Boats were anchored three to six deep. How in the world did they get out once they were loaded? Packages were stacked everywhere! How did they keep track of what was where? Aren’t there waves in the Gulf? Wasn’t the loading precarious? Here the longshoreman show up in pickup trucks, SUVs and small trucks, to hand-load packages of textiles, boxes of spices, and many, many appliances to be shipped around the Gulf. We even saw electrical transformers.

 

The boats themselves were absolutely gorgeous, wooden structures brightly painted with filigree and other details. They looked very old. And the men who were working them were so very welcoming, cheerful, hardworking and happy.

 

The highlight of our day serendipitously became the invitation we received to board and tour an Iranian shipping vessel at the port in Dubai Creek. Our visit was accompanied by tea, lunch, shisha, and some great non-verbal communication that bridged my non-existent Farsi with our hosts’ non-existent English. Thankfully a spice trader helped us out with some translation.

To board the boat we had to climb up a very rickety ladder, then crawl over the side and jump down quite steeply. Our hosts very politely watched out for our safety and were extremely hospitable. They got a kick out of our adventurousness and curiosity.

 

We learned that it takes 15 hours to sail from Dubai to Iran, and that they visit five ports there. Our hosts assured us that even with our USA passports we would be safe and happy. As I have work today, going with them wasn’t really an option to consider.

They showed us the captain’s bridge, the sleeping quarters, below deck where there’s a kitchen and stowage, the roof where there’s more stowage. We were told they bring gold from India to Dubai, textiles from Dubai to Iran, and spices from Iran to Dubai. All of them had been doing this their whole lives. There were also loads of household appliances bound for Iran: washers, freezers, and loads of things made in China.

I asked how they got in and out of the port amidst so many ships. “No problem,” was the answer, as Haziz pointed to a small opening between boats, through which none of the boats would fit. Leaving port obviously takes a lot of cooperation between vessels. I asked how they knew where everything was, to load an unload. “We know.” I guess a lifetime teaches you the order in that apparent chaos.

 

Many thanks to David Benson of www.goexploreae.com, who told us we could go up to the multi-level parking structure across from the port to get a bird’s-eye view of that organized chaos going on in the creek. Thank goodness we did! What a view of both the boats in the waterway and out the other direction!

 

It was a wonderfully full day of cross-cultural interaction. We spent time with Filipinos, Malays, Indians. Not many Emiratis yet, but there is always tomorrow.