Since When is 40% Acceptable?

Instructional_Design-InfographicOnly half of 1120 instructional design professionals surveyed recently feel their designs help meet business goals, and LESS THAN 40% feel their designs meet learning needs! That means that 60% believe their learning designs do NOT accomplish objectives! Survey results also showed that even in 2015, traditional classroom training ranks #1 on a list of the top ten learning approaches; 92% of instructional designers responding said they rely on it ahead of online or blended learning, coaching or mentoring.

Such findings help explain why sales of Cultural Detective‘s old-fashioned though beautiful, printed PDF handouts still outsell our state-of-the-art Cultural Detective Online, which provides unbelievable value for the investment (63 packages integrated into one interactive system at very affordable subscription prices). It also shows that you, our community, are learning leaders who are very quickly turning that reality on its head—if trends continue, CD Online sales will soon surpass PDF package sales.

Neither are you part of that 60% in the study who feel their designs don’t meet learning goals! You, our users, report that CD Online makes it easy to make learning creative and practical—and to achieve outstanding results.

The research findings I shared above are by ATD Research and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), and appear in Instructional Design Now: A New Age of Learning and Beyond. The report retails for $499 ($199 for ATD members). A white paper is available for $19.99 (free to ATD members), and ATD has made a very short free preview available as well. The research addresses such questions as:

  • Are most organizations embracing high-tech options, such as mobile learning, social learning, and MOOCs?
  • Which of the newer tools and approaches produce better learning results for companies?
  • What can instructional designers expect the next few years to bring?
  • Does formal education still play a valuable role in preparing designers for the challenges of the workplace?

Organizations participating in the survey include LinkedIn, NASCO, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

The last study in this series—from 2010—showed that instructional design needed to become faster, more strategic, global, and tech-savvy. Other key points from the 2010 study included:

  • Emerging learning methodologies would challenge designers to craft multifaceted content.
  • Growth in social media would expand its use in learning.
  • Budget constraints and staffing issues would be stumbling blocks for instructional designers.
  • Measurement capabilities would be increasingly necessary to capture and communicate the value of learning assets.
  • Efforts would be required to get organizational stakeholders onboard with new learning mechanisms.

We frequently share designs and results from our user community on this blog. It’s a great way to help others, to encourage the development of intercultural competence in this world of ours, and to get you and your organization’s name out there as leaders in intercultural competence development. Contact us if you’d like to share a summary of your work or have us interview you.

And, for goodness sake, if you haven’t explored the potential of Cultural Detective Online, what’s stopping you? Join our next free webinar on Tuesday, May 12th. Information and registration can be found here.

New Year’s Gift: Oldie but Goodie—The STADIApproach

Permission is granted to use this model freely and to circulate it, PROVIDED the © and url are maintained.

Permission is granted to use this model freely and to circulate it, PROVIDED the © and url are maintained.

It is said that experience is the best teacher. But learning does not lie in the experience itself; rather, it is our interpretation of the situation—the meaning we give to our experience—that provides our learning.

How might we better enable learners to constructively give meaning to their intercultural experiences? Are you looking for an easy and highly effective way to structure your next intercultural workshop or coaching session? Are you wondering how you might better enable study-abroad students to understand their experience in a way that builds cross-cultural competence? Do you have employees working internationally or multiculturally, and you’d like them to learn to truly harness the potential of diversity?

This “oldie but goodie,” the STADIApproach to Intercultural Learning, has been used in dozens of organizations worldwide with huge success. Click on the link to view a full article on the approach. I first published it for use with my proprietary clients in 1989; it is now even more useful as it can provide a design framework for blended learning approaches that leverage Cultural Detective Online. The CD Online system has STADI embedded into its core. In the hands of a skilled facilitator, teacher or coach, you can assist your learners to Sense, Think, Apply, Do and Integrate by analyzing the experience of others via the critical incidents in CD Online, as well as probing their own real life experiences.

We trust you’ll find the STADIApproach article helpful! Please accept it and use it as my new year’s gift to you, this January of 2014. It is my wish that the new year will enable all of you, dear readers, to better facilitate intercultural understanding, sustainability, respect and equity on this planet of ours.

Please share your experiences with us, and your designs that effectively leverage Cultural Detective Online to supplement your training, teaching or coaching endeavors.


10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups

saltyspicysweetsourAs educators and trainers, we often find ourselves needing to sort class members into small groups for an activity. Tried-and-true ways include having participants “number off” or color-coding their name tags. But even the ways in which we divide our students or trainees into small groups can contribute to learning and enjoyment: it can ground learners in the topic at hand, reinforce key points, provide insight into ourselves and others, and help develop teamwork.

In short, the way we divide into groups can become a subtle yet powerful element of spiral learning. For those of us who teach intercultural communication or diversity and inclusion, it can be helpful to divide into groups in ways that encourage learning about similarities and differences.

In that spirit, here are ten of my favorite “Quick Tips” for dividing a large group into small groups. Whether you want to explicitly debrief the learning or leave it as-is depends on your purposes. As with any activity, it needs to suit your style and that of your students, and be appropriate for the environment.

1. Salty/Spicy/Sweet/Sour
Using food is always fun and low stress for the participants. As individuals we like different tastes, and there are cultural tendencies as well. For me, the “sour” tastes of pickled food unite my German blood and my life experience in Japan, for example.
  • Instructions: Make a small sign with a flavor or taste, using as many flavors as you need groups. Then, ask class members to go to their favorite flavor.
  • Variations: Alternatively you could divide the group by having participants choose their favorite fruit or choose their favorite dish from among several common dishes. Or, try having a real snack at each location, and just see where people gravitate. Depending on the context, this could be a good time to use international and ethnic snack foods.
  • If you want to Debrief: Once you have the small groups, you can ask people to take a look around. Do they see themes in the groupings? Any cultural tendencies? Or, do they see reinforcement that we all have our individual taste preferences? Each time will be different. Ask people to reflect on why they like the taste they chose. What life experiences taught them to value that taste? Might this enhance their cultural self-awareness?
2. Goodies Sort
Again using food, this is one of my favorite methods, and one very popular with students or trainees! In the context of teaching or training, a treat is a good pick-me-up, and it’s easy to “internationalize” or add something new and different given the variety of food.
  • Instructions: Prepare “goodies” (chocolates, candies, pretzels, cheese sticks; I’ve even used dried squid and roasted grasshoppers) in as many varieties as you want groups. Put one item for each of your class members in a basket, and pass the basket. Then ask “pretzel people” to meet over here, “cheese people” over there, etc.
  • Variations: You can also use multicultural snacks! Another simple variation is to use the same kind of candy but in different colors: all the reds meet over here, the blues over there, etc. If you have a group that genuinely embraces informality, have them suck their candy, then stick out their tongues to find their fellow group members.
  • If you want to Debrief: Which snacks attracted you and why? Are your food preferences influenced by your ethnic and cultural heritage? Which rules your snack preference: personality or culture? Did any of the snacks look very unappetizing? If so, why? Perhaps make the point that just as our snack preferences vary according to whom we’re with and how we’re feeling (whether we’re tired, excited), our behavior in multicultural teams depends on the context, too.
3. Pertinent Quotes
Quotations have become quite popular on social media sites, and they are a powerful way to introduce a new topic or to summarize learning. Since this activity involves a bit of walking around, it gets people up and moving as well. It’s one of my favorite ways to get people into pairs.
  • Instructions: Assemble a set of quotations on the topic you are teaching. Choose half as many quotes as you have participants. Type up the quotes, dividing them in the middle: choose a fairly obvious place for breaking the quotation in half. Print them, cut them apart, fold them up, and have participants each choose one out of a basket. Then, ask them to find the person with the other half of their quote.
  • Variations: You can combine this method with the “Goodie Share” by taping the half-quote onto the bottom of a candy or snack, then asking participants to find their partners.
  • If you want to Debrief: To aid in this process, you could post a list of complete quotes on a flip chart. You can have some/each of the couples read their quotes aloud to the class. You might ask participants to speak to how “their” quotes relate to what they want to get out of your class today.
4. In • ter • cul • tur • al
This one’s a simple, quick, and easy way to divide participants into groups using a word that reinforces the theme, topic or key skill of the day’s learning session.
  • Instructions: Choose a word that represents an aspect of the theme you are teaching. That word should have the same number of syllables as the number of small groups you want. Instead of numbering off, have class members recite the word’s syllables. It’s a good way to reinforce key concepts.
  • Variations: You could say the word in another language, thus teaching a bit of a destination language, for example.
  • If you want to Debrief: Really not necessary, but… You could ask participants about different ways of hyphenating words, dividing syllables, in the languages they speak.
5. Playing Cards
This is another very quick way to divide participants into small groups: it can have a cultural component, yet it doesn’t necessarily need to be debriefed. With a unique deck of cards, it can be even more interesting.
  • Instructions: From a deck of playing cards, choose one card for each person in your class. Make sure you have “sets” of cards, one set for each group you want. Put all the cards from the abridged deck facedown on a table, and have participants each choose a card. Then group people as you’ve planned, by number (all 2s, 3s, etc.), or by suit, color, odds/evens, higher/lower than 8, etc.
  • Variations: Use Mexican Lotería cards, Japanese Hanafuda cards, mahjong playing cards, or another culturally appropriate (or new-to-your-participants) card deck to divide your class.
  • If you want to Debrief: Ask if everyone felt comfortable with your instructions. Were they familiar with the words you used (suit, Ace, etc.)? People who play cards have a culture unfamiliar to non-card players: shared “common sense,” vocabulary, customs. Some people associate card playing with gambling, and thus don’t like, or feel religiously forbidden from, playing. As with any educational activity, make sure this one will be comfortable for your learners.
6. What You’re Wearing 
I have learned so much from this simple activity over the years because participants always see something I hadn’t noticed. It can also serve as a wonderful impetus for reflecting on value differences.
  • Instructions: Have class members get into groups of 3 or 4, whatever you choose, based on similarities in what they are wearing. They decide what they have in common.
  • Variations: An alternative is to have learners group according to shoe type. This can be very fun, too, and it’s sometimes surprising the categories people come up with.
  • If you want to Debrief: If you choose to debrief this group-sorting activity, you may find a myriad of perceptions about clothing and shoe styles. Often people group into categories that they themselves might not have thought of on their own. Ask participants to discuss in their small groups how they decided to group themselves. Were they all focused on the same thing, or did they have different understandings of their clothing commonality? Groups can share with one another how they grouped, and compare similarities and differences. Did anyone share a perception of someone else’s clothing that surprised you? That echoed or differed from your own perception? What can this tell us about values and perceptions?
7. Number of Languages You Speak, Countries in Which You’ve Lived
This method also helps everyone learn a bit about each other quickly, that they might not have otherwise known.
  • Instructions: Have people line up according to the number of languages they speak, or the number of countries in which they’ve lived, and then divide them into groups.
  • Variations: Tell participants to assemble in groups of people who speak 1, 2, and someone who speaks 3 (or more) languages. This gives a bit more diversity in each small group. You can do the same thing with the number of countries in which participants have lived.
  • If you want to Debrief: Ask participants if they are surprised at who is in their group—have they learned something new about one or more of their colleagues? Does this change their perception of the other person? How and why? Does this change their perception of themselves? How and why?
8. Animal Sounds or Industry Vocabulary Across Languages
I have always been fascinated by the different sounds that animals make as represented in different languages. Really, in Japanese, mice say “chu”?! Use this interesting trivia to your advantage, and insert a bit of lightheartedness to your session.
  • Instructions: Print cards with an image of an animal and the sound that animal makes in a different language. Then ask people to make the sound on their card in order to find each other. You will need one card for each participant, and the number of animals you use should correspond to the number of groups you want to form.
  • If you want to Debrief: Explain that animal sounds are lighthearted, then shift to the inextricable connection between linguistic and cultural fluency. Ask participants to share with you differences they’ve noticed across languages, words that sound similar but mean different things in different places, or how much vocabulary, even in the same language, varies place-to-place. You could ask participants share other interesting sounds animals make in languages they speak.
  • Variations: You can use the same animal and have participants divide into groups according to the sound it makes in Spanish vs. German vs. Chinese, etc. You could use different animals and the sound they make in a destination language. Alternatively, you could use industry-specific vocabulary in different languages, or words having to do with the subject of your workshop in various languages.
9. Arm Cross/Hand Cross
This is a very easy way to divide the room into two groups, and to illustrate how something that looks similar can really be quite different once you analyze it a bit more.
  • Instructions: Ask your students to cross their arms over their chests. Those people with their left arms on top form one group, and those with their right arms on top form the other.
  • Variations: Asking participants to clasp their hands or cross their legs works just as well.
  • If you want to Debrief: We all have automatic habits that we don’t pay much attention to, things we do without making a conscious choice—like the way we cross our arms, or how we attempt to persuade someone, or apologize or disagree. Another  point you might debrief: ask whether, at first glance, with arms crossed, they all seemed to be doing the same thing? It wasn’t until you called attention to the subtle differences in how people were crossing their arms that they noticed. And so it can be with culture.
10. The Name Game
Many cultures around the world have a variety of traditions around naming their children: a girl may be called “daughter of __,” sons may be named according to birth order, a child may be named after an ancestor, or given a name that indicates a hope the parents have for the child (beauty, peace, etc.). Many people are very, very proud of their names, and others may have no idea how they were named or why. Some may have changed their name or had their names changed for them.
  • Instructions: Ask your students to think about their name, and a short (30 second) story about how they got the name, what their name means, how their name or nickname has varied over the years. Then tell students to walk around sharing their “name stories” with one another, until they find someone with a name story similar to theirs in some way. Participants can form pairs, groups of 3, 4, or 5—whatever is helpful.
  • Variations: An alternative of course is to find partners with very different name stories.
  • If you want to Debrief: This is a wonderful activity through which you can talk about value differences, or strategies for adapting to a new culture (do you change your name, adapt its pronunciation…).

Hey, all you trainers and teachers out there: What’s your favorite way to divide a large group into small groups for activities? Please share your creative approaches and recommendations!

Six Powerful Ways to Build Cross-cultural Effectiveness

numeral button-sixWe have some very exciting news for you! Cultural Detective has teamed up with several of our partners to offer you SIX innovative ways to harness the innovation and power of diversity!

Yes, six upcoming events, several of which are free of charge.

Please take the time to sign up now to secure your seats, as these events will sell out quickly.

Tatyana Webinar FINAL#1: JUNE 3, Online
The Art of Facilitation for a Global World

This free-of-charge webinar will be conducted by Tatyana Fertelmeyster, and will preview three of the many dynamite learning opportunities that will be offered at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication in July, each of which will include Cultural Detective. Her unique technique of Spontaneous Facilitation allows her to work with individuals and groups with maximum concentration on the reality of the present moment. Click here to learn more or register.

IMG_9443#2: JUNE 5 & 20, JULY 10 & 18, AUGUST 7 & 22, Online
Enhancing Cross-Cultural Collaboration:
Demonstration of Cultural Detective Online

These events are free-of-charge. Participants learn to leverage similarities and diversity as assets, rather than minimizing or managing around difference. You will experience some of the wealth of content and process available in the Cultural Detective Online system, and see how easily the system can be incorporated into existing courseware. Participants in the webinar receive a free three-day pass to Cultural Detective Online.

Click here to view client testimonials and videos on the Cultural Detective Online system. From that page, click on “Learn More/Subscribe” for details and pricing information. To learn more about this event or sign up click here.

Flyer seminario sin

#3: JUNE 6, Bogotá COLOMBIA
Negociando A Través de las Culturas

Cultural Detective is proud to sponsor this event conducted by Global Minds. Facilitated by Fernando Parrado, it will be held in the Salón Fundadores at the beautiful Uniandinos. The event will focus on joint ventures between Colombia and India.

60772_497965080240721_1862908967_n#4: JUNE 25, Online
Coaching and the Cultural Detective: A Creative and Transformative Process

This is a brand-new, first-time-ever offering! Are you are a business leader, coach, consultant, speaker or teacher? Do you want to become culturally competent and self-confident in the global arena? In our webinar we will introduce you to a powerful and transformative coaching process for cross-cultural competence!

The coaching process leverages the core process and wealth of content in the Cultural Detective Online to provide you with a comprehensive learning experience that is stimulating, supportive and transformative! In addition to exploring key cultural concepts and culture-specific information, the collaborative and creative coaching environment helps you develop new perspectives and skills for bridging the gap between your personal cultural “sense” and the cultural “sense” of your colleagues and clients.

The webinar will be facilitated by Jan O’Brien, IAC-MCC, President of Culture-Conscious International, a coaching and consulting company based in Houston, Texas. Jan is a US/UK dual national and has lived and worked extensively overseas, in particular in the US and the South East Asia region. She is a Certified Cultural Detective® facilitator and a Master Certified Coach with the International Association of Coaching (IAC). Jan has worked with clients from many language and cultural backgrounds and has personally experienced the benefits and challenges of living and working in the global arena. To learn more or register click here.

ici#5: JULY 20-21, Portland Oregon USA
Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification

Live and in person, this two-day facilitator certification program is the ONLY PUBLIC CERTIFICATION we have scheduled this year.

This workshop will be held between Sessions 2 and 3 of the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, to make it convenient for you to attend and take advantage of other professional development opportunities in the same trip. Facilitated by Tatyana Fertelmeyster. This workshop will include a one-month subscription to Cultural Detective Online.

Click here to register. Click here for more information.

highroaders_logo#6: SEPTEMBER 24, Online
High-Performing Global Teams: How to Combine Virtual Training and
Cultural Detective for Incredible Results

This event sold out within 26 hours the first time we held it. This will be the second time it’s offered. Global teams have become the norm in most business environments today, but many teams never achieve “high-performance.” Why? Because team members from around the world are expected to achieve consistent results across languages, time zones, cultural values, and more but they are not given all of the skills they need to match this expectation.

Join us for an interactive webinar and learn the latest creative techniques for preparing today’s global teams to excel. Explore how global teams can come together via virtual training platforms and use Cultural Detective to work through scenarios relevant to their business challenges.

In this webinar, Vicki Flier Hudson, Chief Collaboration Officer for Highroad Global Services will walk you through a demonstration of a global team training designed for a large company using a variety of tools including Cultural Detective Online. You will gain ideas, tips, and strategies to help bring your global team together, build solid relationships, and achieve high-performance. To learn more or register click here.


Kevin and Rita Booker, very active Cultural Detective community members and extremely talented professionals, have put together a series of three articles on using film in intercultural education that I think you will find very helpful. If you use movie clips or YouTube videos in your coaching, training or teaching, or if you want to do that more, be sure to take a look. Lots of learning there.

By the way, if you love film, be sure to check out CDTV, our Cultural Detective channel on YouTube, with over 20 playlists. We welcome your recommendations (urls) on videos to add. Together we can build a convenient central repository of films to use to help our world become a more inclusive and collaborative place!

Developmental Intercultural Competence

The ability to collaborate productively and enjoyably across cultures is more important than ever, whether we focus on communicating with elderly parents or teenaged children, or on building trust and producing results with colleagues at the next desk and across the planet. But what do theory and practice tell us about how to gain maximum effectiveness?

One exceptionally rapid and proven way to successfully improve cross-cultural competence is to use the MashUp: a natural and powerful combination of two leading intercultural competence development processes: Cultural Detective and Personal Leadership.

Starting in September we will conduct a four-month course that will transform your personal and professional practice. It will enable you to use the MashUp in a developmentally appropriate manner to support and stretch learners at all stages of intercultural development.

Coursework will be conducted virtually, allowing you to complete the assignments from your office, home, or during travels. There will be individual and pair assignments, in addition to online classes. Do not miss this opportunity to work with some of those who are doing leading intercultural competence work worldwide. Learn more.

Designing and Implementing Global Diversity

The global scene is expanding and our world has become borderless. Designing and implementing programs for global audiences presents unusual challenges. Familiar activities may be culturally inappropriate, simulations may need revision, or inherent cultural biases may limit our impact.

This five-day workshop will address strategies for adapting programs for highly diverse audiences, and for designing culturally responsive design and instruction. The facilitators will share a learning framework that will help you assess the impact of culture on teaching and learning. You will learn about the success, the challenges, and the next steps for preparing and delivering culturally sensitive global diversity programs.

To be held July 23-27 in Portland, Oregon, as part of the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, the workshop is designed for intermediate and advanced designers, developers, and others launching or anticipating launch of a global diversity program within organizations, whether corporate, nonprofit, NGOs, or educational institutions.

In this session, you will:
  • Learn to adapt simulations, games, blended learning and social media for multiple purposes by tailoring design, delivery, and debriefing.
  • Explore multiple approaches to delivering global diversity.
  • Assess how cultural biases impact design and implementation.
  • Identify learning challenges in implementing programs across cultures.
  • Adapt instructional design for culturally diverse populations.
  • Apply new skills to deliver culturally sensitive and culturally adaptive instruction.

The Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication is one of the world’s premier professional development venues. Be sure to join us in beautiful Portland, Oregon this coming July.

Movie Review: The Separation of Nader va Simin (Iran)

The media attention on Israel’s potential response to Iran’s nuclear activity has piqued my interest to learn a bit more about Iranian culture. Last week our family watched a most incredible film that I felt provided so much insight, so I asked my very good friend, Cultural Detective certified facilitator Pari Namazie, what she thought about what I had learned and seen.

I trust you’ll all enjoy her insights as much as I have. It would seem that this film could be an excellent learning tool for those working with Iranians.

Pari joon, thank you for sharing your insights with us!

They were proud moments for us Iranians when Asghar Farhadi received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Golden Globe and the Golden Bear of Berlinale, for his film A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin).

The film, which talks about a divorce between Nader and Simin, has two main underlying themes: responsibility and truth. Though one initially thinks the film is about a divorce case, Farhadi cleverly weaves many layers of Iranian society into his film, including power, religion, truth, gender, family, and social class. The points which stuck out most when I watched the film were:

The role of women: Iran is governed by Islamic law. The society is patriarchal and the laws between men and women unequal. Although the foreign media might portray Iranian women as weak and dominated by men, the reality of the matter was captured well in Farhadi’s film, which showed Simin wanting to leave Iran with her daughter, as she believed it was not an environment for a child to grow up in. When her husband refused to immigrate with her (due to his father’s condition), she then insisted on divorce and moved into her parents’ home. It also showed a more religious woman taking fate into her own hands looking for a job, despite the fact that in her family the breadwinner was undoubtedly her husband. Any one who has visited Iran will know the strength of character and conviction of its women.

Truth: The film beautifully portrayed the search for truth in the Iranian culture: from the court, to Termeh (the daughter) asking her father if he knew Razieh (the helper) was pregnant when he pushed her out of the house, to Razieh swearing on the Koran that Nader’s pushing her caused her miscarriage — if she swore on the Koran and it were untrue, then she would condemn her daughter’s future and fate. These behaviors show one of the strongest elements in Iranian culture: the search for truth.

Religion: Beautiful to see how Farhadi craftfully showed the secular and religious segments of society, how they came together respectful of one another, and yet also their existing tensions. Nader and Simin are more secular and Razieh and her family, religious. On one occasion Razieh called her religious authority to ask if it was permitted by Islam to work with an elderly old man, who was not related to her and where she would have to wash and change him.

Responsibility and Family: The relationship and responsibility towards family from the younger to the older generation. In the opening scene at the family court, Nader tells the judge that he cannot immigrate with Simin as he has an elderly father suffering with Alzheimer’s and can not leave him. Other scenes show Nader’s commitment to his father and his relationship with his daughter Termeh. Although he is under many pressures he still maintains his attentive concentration towards Termeh’s studies and taking care of his father, the two main priorities in his life.

Farhadi competently shows the different viewpoints of all the actors, without taking sides, and lets the audience reflect on the circumstances and situations. This film is a must-see if you have not yet!

Book Review: How Maps Change Things

by Ward L. Kaiser, published by the New Internationalist and ODT Maps, 2012.
Free download through March 31 for Cultural Detectives

Anyone looking to develop a new class or training program to improve intercultural competence? This just-released book, How Maps Change Things: A conversation about the maps we choose and the world we want, could be the basis of one terrific learning journey! I highlighted something on nearly every one of its 188 pages. I learned so much, on so many different yet related topics, that I now have five or six threads of learning and discovery I want to pursue!

At first glance you might think this is a book about maps. Then you read on page six that it is about

“… how we shape and use maps and how they in turn shape us. It’s about how we see the world and how we therefore understand our place in it.”

So you start to hope that How Maps Change Things could teach us to be careful whether we label a certain body of water the “Arabian Gulf” or the “Persian Gulf,” or color-code parts of Kashmir as Indian or Pakistani, but it goes way beyond that.

“Because such maps encourage the feeling that some areas are home to movers and shakers while others shelter mere pawns.” — page 74

Mr. Kaiser, the author, is a big fan of equal-area projection maps such as the Peters, as most in the global diversity and inclusion field are, and points out how maps such as the Mercator aren’t good for much other than navigation. But in addition to showing us how maps can be used to perpetuate bias, he shows us how maps can also be used to promote perspective shifting, equity, and social justice:

“Through internalizing many ways to see the world we may even develop openness to other people’s points of view and greater self-awareness.”
— page 164

“What if people all over the world threatened by, well, you name it – logging, commercial development, polluting factories, hydrofracking chemicals in drinking water, say – what if they could all see maps as tools of analysis and action? …

How about a map to make clear where the hazardous electronic wastes of the developed world get dumped …

Bring together maps, available technology, human creativity, and people’s willingness to take a stand and you’ve got a powerful recipe for changing events.” — page 176

For these reasons and others this volume will be useful to interculturalists and those interested in diversity, sustainability, and social action.

The author premises that maps are tools that serve a purpose.

“Maps are verbs. They may seem to be tactile objects, documents we can handle or fold – nouns – but don’t be fooled. In persuasively framing questions and selectively supplying answers they act; they initiate; they function as agents.” — page 15

To illustrate this point he shares some terrific stories: one about the role of maps in a territorial dispute between First Nations people and the Canadian government (pages 35-39); another about how a map can skew our view of a country as a source of oil or as a residence of people and families (pages 8-17); and a third showing how a map was used to get one county to pay for a highway interchange that served another county (pages 34-35). There is a chapter about the connection between maps and faith/values (chapter 10 page 141), and how maps are used for disease control and health (page 170), as well as for crime prevention (page 173), a topic of special interest lately with concerns of profiling and ethnic bias.

The book is written in a lively, accessible style, though it gets heavier and slower toward the end; ironically, the final chapters are where Mr. Kaiser’s true passion seems to lie. It contains several embedded learning exercises (e.g., page 121) and interesting conversations such as how indigenous North Americans mapped (page 40). Via this latter conversation, he shows that the “culture” of map-makers is not universal. This, to me, is a hugely important point. Too many people believe their area of professional practice is culture-neutral or universal when, in fact, even science is culturally relative (as well as discipline-relative!).

One of the pleasures of reading How Maps Change Things is that it contains quite a few valuable “hidden” gems. One of my favorites: as the author discusses the huge socio-economic gap in our world, variously referred to by such inadequate (or judgment-laden) terms as North-South, 1st/3rd world, Developed/Developing nations, and Viable/Failed states, he provides in the footnotes a list of experts from diverse political persuasions and walks of life who share a consensus on the absolute need to bridge this gap (pages 138-139).

Through March 31 our friends at ODT Maps, the publisher, are offering this ebook FREE to our Cultural Detective community. I urge you to take advantage of this offer and help the author get this book put to good use!

Maps are tools, and can be purposed to perpetuate bias or to help us to create a better world. Cultural Detective has long been passionate about maps as learning tools. Way back in December of 2005 we dedicated an entire edition of our Cultural Detective e-news to maps (including 3 articles of activities and curricular ideas and a quiz), relying in large part on the expertise and generosity of our friends at ODT Maps.

It included: Using Physical Maps to Transform Mental Maps8 Map Activities for Intercultural Learning; a World Map Detective quizTraining with Map Power; and a free offer (a Mecca-centered Azimuthal map, a Peters Projection map, and a Population Map) from our friends at ODT Maps.

Bob Abramms at ODT has a wealth of books, DVDs, globes, puzzles, games, props, and  world maps for different purposes — terrific training material for intercultural and global diversity and inclusion professionals. If you’re not familiar with his great stuff, be sure to check it out.

Much-Anticipated New Release! Cultural Detective: Bridging Cultures

Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures coverIntercultural understanding is essential to working in a global world, though by itself it is simply not enough. There is a critical need beyond awareness of differences: an ability to generate and demonstrate effective, transformative, out-of-the-box solutions to challenging intercultural situations. Since 2004, the Cultural Detective series has successfully enabled people to do just that.

We are proud to announce the debut of our latest offering, Cultural Detective: Bridging Cultures. This new tool enables individuals, teams and organizations to purposefully strengthen mindsets and skills in order to leverage cultural differences as assets. It contains worksheets, exercises, tools, tips, and complete instructions. The learning package is authored by Kate Berardo.

Not every situation can be bridged, perhaps not every situation should be bridged, and the act of bridging, as many things in life, may involve an investment of time and energy. This new set of learning materials begins, therefore, by helping you distinguish whether “to bridge, or not to bridge.”

Cultural Detective: Bridging Cultures will enable you to understand how you tend to react when encountering cultural bridging opportunities, identify more effective strategies for bridging both in-the-moment and over time, and practice putting these skills into action. More specifically, you will:
  • Identify when a conversation is about to spiral up or down.
  • Identify “bridge builders” and “bridge blockers” to your successful intercultural communication.
  • Learn techniques for in the moment bridging of differences to ensure conversations spiral upward instead of downward.
  • Develop holistic strategies that consider influencing factors such as history, context, and structure of the interaction.
  • Learn how to expand, filter and test effective bridging solutions.
  • Develop high-impact, creative bridging solutions to both prepare for and repair intercultural relationships.
  • Practice, and receive feedback, on bridging strategies in situations that are real and relevant for you.
Cultural Detective: Bridging Cultures is organized around four main competencies that are essential to bridging cultural differences. They are:
  1. Self-Awareness: Being aware of the mindset you bring to challenging intercultural situations, and knowing both your strengths and blocks in turning such situations into bridging opportunities.
  2. Course Correction: Recognizing points in an interaction where misunderstanding or conflict starts to occur, and responding appropriately.
  3. Holistic Analysis: Being able to analyze complex intercultural situations in a detailed and holistic way that considers a variety of influencing factors, and, thereby, more effective solutions.
  4. Creative Solving: Learning skills and methods to generate “beyond the obvious” solutions to bridge intercultural differences.

While this is not to suggest these are all the skills needed to work effectively across cultures, these are often under-developed abilities that need to be strengthened to enable effective intercultural bridging, and, therefore, are the focus of this package.


How about an exercise to get you started? The purpose of this activity is to learn what bridging and blocking look like for you, so you can hold a bridging mindset more often.

Let’s begin with some simple definitions.

Blocking Mindset:
  • Focused on own agenda
  • May become defensive or impatient
  • Unintentionally harming the relationship

Think about a challenging interaction in your own life (who, what, when, why) during which you held a blocking mindset. How did you feel? What did your blocking mindset look like? What behaviors did it entail? What outcomes did you achieve?

What do your reactions tell you about yourself and how you might improve your intercultural effectiveness?

Bridging Mindset:
  • Open and curious about others
  • Willingness to meet others more than half-way
  • Belief that others are NOT “out to get us” but that they have positive intentions

Think about a challenging interaction in your own life (who, what, when, why) during which you held a bridging mindset.  How did you feel? What did your bridging mindset look like? What behaviors did it entail? What outcomes did you achieve?

Learn more about Cultural Detective: Bridging Cultures; view a short video on the core Cultural Detective method, which a major software manufacturer credits with a 30% increase in customer support satisfaction; purchase small quantities of the package; or contact Kris Bibler about a site license.