Study Supports Ecotonos’ Effectiveness

ecotonos-research

“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.

The Pulitzer’s of Diversity

Edith Anisfield Wolf, Photo from the Cleveland Foundation

Edith Anisfield Wolf, photo from the Cleveland Foundation

Do you think you are well-read on world cultures? Do you occasionally wonder what one person can do to promote justice in this world of ours? Are you someone who thinks that it’s primarily people of color who recognize the vital importance of diversity on our planet? If so, think again and most definitely read on.

Edith Anisfield Wolf, born way back in 1889, was a poet, businesswoman and philanthropist from Cleveland who had a lifelong passion for social justice. The daughter of immigrants, Edith spoke four languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and used literature as a means to explore racial prejudice and celebrate human diversity.

In 1935 she created the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, to honor books that explore these very issues. That makes 2015 the Award’s 80th anniversary! Congratulations and thank you, Edith! Note how visionary that makes her—establishing this important Award 20 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision! Edith died in 1963, but her legacy lives on.

“The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures…Today it remains the only American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity. Past winners have presented the extraordinary art and culture of peoples around the world, explored human-rights violations, exposed the effects of racism on children, reflected on growing up biracial, and illuminated the dignity of people as they search for justice.”
—Anisfield-Wolf website

Over the past 80 years the Award has highlighted nearly 200 significant books, most of which I have not read. So I need to get going! For those of us who may be intimidated by such a long list, they also have a smaller list of 24 “Lifetime Achievement” books, or you can sort winners by year or according to the categories of fiction, non-fiction or poetry.

Again from the Award’s website: “The Cleveland Foundation, the world’s first community foundation, has administered the Anisfield-Wolf prize since 1963. Before then, the Saturday Review sponsored the awards. From the early 1960s until 1996, internationally renowned anthropologist and author Ashley Montagu chaired the awards jury. That panel of globally prominent scholars and writers has since been overseen by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the acclaimed scholar, lecturer, social critic, writer, and editor.”

Have you heard of this Award? Despite its prestigious history and huge contribution, and the fact that the Anisfield-Wolf’s cash prizes equal the Pulitzer’s, many people haven’t heard of it. Perhaps that’s due to how ahead of its time the Award was, though Karen Long, the Award’s manager, has another theory:

“[The] Anisfield-Wolf remains a relatively unknown honor. Awards manager Karen Long suspects she knows why. ‘Things that address race are considered, sometimes in the larger culture, as homework or broccoli or good for you.'” —USA’s National Public Radio

Cultural Detectives, I am thrilled to be on the journey to developing intercultural competence, respect, understanding, collaboration and justice with you. And, I’m feeling like we need to work together to make sure more people know about this incredible resource! Let’s start by watching the Awards via live feed this Thursday, September 10, at 6:00 pm Cleveland time (GMT-4), and by circulating this post widely to your networks.

Great Culture-Crossers I Have Known (or wish I had!)

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Entrance to Woolarac Museum

This is a guest blog post by Carrie Cameron, co-author of Cultural Detective Russia. I assure you I would have been wrangling to get on the guest list for Frank’s annual party! What a mixer those must have been!

What do oil tycoons, American Indians, and bank robbers have in common? I had a chance to find out recently, when I visited the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA. The name “Woolaroc” is composed of the words “woods,” “lakes,” and “rocks.” The museum and surrounding natural park, located in the beautiful hills in the northernmost vestiges of the Ozark Mountains, was a gift to the people from Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum (Phillips 66). The museum is full of extraordinary Indian art and artifacts, as well as cowboy and frontier art and artifacts.

Mr. Phillips was born on a small farm in Nebraska, became a successful businessman, and married the daughter of a bank president. Moving to northern Oklahoma to buy land and drill for oil, he became deeply attached to the countryside, and also close to the Osage tribe living there. He was the first White man adopted into the tribe, a testament to his ability to transcend cultural differences.

He originally built Woolaroc as a personal retreat, to which he invited his wealthy business associates and friends. But perhaps his most remarkable social contribution was to host a grand party once a year to which he invited his business and family friends, his Osage Indian friends, local White settlers and cowboys, local lawmen, and bank robbers and cattle rustlers (who received full amnesty for that day). What a gathering that must have been.image003Phillips’ ability to value the humanity in an extraordinary range of people—rich and poor, White and Native American, businessman and cowboy, and even citizen and outlaw—was exceptional. It reminds us that building cultural bridges is not just about ethnicity or race, but about the many facets that make up our unique identities. Not simply tolerating—but actually thriving—on this kaleidoscope, Mr. Phillips appears to have been a Cultural Detective par excellence!

La Supervisión de una Fuerza de Trabajo Multicultural

web2Un segundo video tomado del webinar “Desarrollando habilidades interculturales en  profesionales globales”, el 24 de Octubre 2013, en el cual cuento una historia de la gerencia de un equipo de trabajo intercultural. Es la historia de un mecánico Holandés que trabaja como jefe de equipo en un buque de perforación petrolera frente a las costas de Argentina. La falta de competencias interculturales requeridas conlleva la pérdida de tres empleados, mucho dinero, y la reputación de la empresa en el mercado. Desafortunadamente es una situación muy común—una que Cultural Detective te ayuda a evitar.

Por favor, cuéntanos tu historia…

Historia 1

Historia 3

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This article by Vijay Nagaswami, “Culture vs. culture,” was sent to us via the marvelous Cultural Detective certified facilitator and current SIETAR India President, Sunita Nichani. She says, “Here is an interesting article published this Sunday in one of India’s leading newspapers, The Hindu. With the slow erosion of the custom of marrying within similar communities in India, intercultural competence will be vital for making marriages work.”

Lots of work to do in this world, in so many ways and places. Let’s get started, everyone!

Mashing-it-Up in Hong Kong: International Schools

By Barbara Schaetti, co-author of Cultural Detective Blended Culture
Reposted from Personal Leadership May 2012 Newsletter

International educators have historically assumed that K-12 international schools are, by default serving multinational and multicultural expatriate communities, providing students with experiences that result in intercultural competence. But are international schools truly teaching students to make meaning of their unique cultural experiences or, when it happens, is it more by good-fortune than by design?

I recently had the honor of being invited to HKISpresent a series of half-, one-, and two-day programs, at the Student Services Summit sponsored by the Hong Kong International School (HKIS). HKIS is among the top tier of K-12 international schools worldwide, and enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a premium institution. Although it was my first time at HKIS, working with and at the School had a quality of home-coming for me: I grew up attending international schools in West Africa and South East Asia, and consulted extensively with international schools throughout Europe and South Asia in the 1990’s. Although each international school varies from the next, the culturally diverse environment they typically offer is very much home territory for me.

And so what a joy to be asked to facilitate a two-day program for international educators titled Deepening Intercultural Competence: Developing an Intercultural Practice. Participants were international educators from across Asia and beyond, mainly developmental guidance counselors (with a couple of administrators too), who share a common passion for preparing their students to participate successfully in a globalized world. They were very ready for a professional development program focused on strengthening their own abilities to role model moment-to-moment intercultural practice.

I centered our time together on The MashUp: A Professional Toolkit for Developing Intercultural Competence. The MashUp (MU) is a natural and powerful combination of two leading processes in the development of intercultural competence: Cultural Detective (CD) and Personal Leadership (PL). Where PL provides a process to disentangle from automatic judgments, emotions, and physical sensations, and to open to the unique possibilities of the present moment, CD provides a process for deconstructing the intercultural dynamics at play, considering the values, beliefs and personal cultural sense that may be motivating people’s words and actions, and developing cultural bridges to close the gap. As an integration of the two, the MashUp offers a proven and exceptionally effective way to successfully strengthen intercultural competence in individuals, in teams, and across organizations.

In Hong Kong, the MashUp was very well received by participants who immediately saw its relevance and practical service to the daily situations they encounter – as international educators and as expatriates themselves. As one person put it:

“How thrilled I am to have experienced these past 2 days – I feel excited and energized, ready to begin a new journey! This has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I am leaving today with great ideas to enrich my practice, and steps to move towards this goal. I also believe that I have a group of colleagues who have a similar mindset and interest in adding value to their practice.”

I too left the session inspired. These international HK BAYeducators are ready to intentionally provide their students (no longer simply to trust to good-fortune) with the role-modeling, orientations, and practices that develop intercultural competence. And if that’s true of the educators in my session, then we can know it’s true of many more!

You have two opportunities to learn more about this developmental MashUp of PL and CD.

  1. The first opportunity will be live and in-person at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, July 16-20. Developing Intercultural Competence: An Integrated Practice will be conducted by Dianne Hofner Saphiere and myself, Barbara F. Schaetti.
  2. The second opportunity will be a blended learning course to be held September-December 2012. Developmental Intercultural Competence: Cultural Detective, Personal Leadership, and the DMIS, a transformative professional development course is an avant garde blended learning course focuses on how best to use the MashUp to support the development of intercultural sensitivity as illustrated by the DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity). This course will be conducted by Dianne, Heather Robinson, and me.

“Most Multicultural Teams are Dominated by One Cultural Group”

Or so claims Jeanne Brett in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. I will agree that most of the multicultural teams I’ve worked with over the past 28 years have been dominated by a sub-group of members. My guess is that’s the same for most teams, no matter the visible diversity of their composition.

This idea caught my attention, and I also really liked that rather than the usual analogy of talking about multicultural teams as symphony orchestras or likening them to herding cats, Jeanne relates multicultural teams to fusion cuisine. And who doesn’t like fusion cuisine? Way to sell multiculturalism!

“It turns out that fusion teams often … break a large team into smaller subgroups, encourage informal conversations, and thereby get input from previously quiet team members. Eventually, the subparts have to be integrated back into a whole; this turns out to be less of a problem than you’d think. In the teams we studied, the trust and respect generated within the subgroups made it reasonably easy to facilitate collaboration in the larger group.”

Another of Jeanne’s points very much echoes what the six expert, globally dispersed authors of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork have to say. Many of you know what a dynamite package that is and, if you don’t, please be sure to check it out! To quote Jeanne’s post:

“We’ve come across team leaders who achieve the same result (getting the most out of all cultural subgroups) by carefully establishing team norms at the start of a project. For example, we know of one manager who was leading an English-language software-development project; English was not his first language. In fact, his English was strongly accented. When he met with the team for the first time, he told them, ‘You’ve probably noticed I have an accent. If I could get rid of it, I’d be happy to do so, but since I cannot, we’re going to have to communicate … regardless of my accent or for that matter yours. If you do not understand me, or one another, whether it’s because of accent or anything else, we need to communicate until we do understand.'”

What do you think? In what ways are multicultural teams like fusion cuisine? What are some of your tried-and-true best practices for multicultural teamwork?

With Love, from War-torn Syria

On my second day in Damascus, I moved in with Noura and her family, only to find out that … they themselves have just miraculously escaped from their home town, Homs – the city that is being bombarded and torn apart by civil unrest!

Her brother has gone to school only 30 days this year. They were trapped in their house for two weeks without electricity. Each time they go to the grocery they are uncertain of ever being able to come back. Leaving their only source of income – an internet café – behind, the single mom and her two children have been struggling to avoid falling apart. With very limited resources, this refugee family has been hosting me, feeding me, loving me, giving me a bed, and escorting me to all sorts of sightseeing places that a tourist is supposed to visit. And all that amidst tears, fear, sadness, worries and uncertainty about their future.
In this picture, Noura and I are under the hooded cloaks, visiting Umayad Mosque, one of the earliest mosques in Islam, built on the 3000 year old remains of an Aramean temple. The worship site was turned into a Roman temple, later converted to a Christian church, and finally was dedicated to Islam in 636 (only four years after the death of Prophet Mohammad). The rich history of this mosque reminds us that holy sites should not be seen as the monopoly of one religion, and that we are the result of an accumulated heritage.

Looking at the chaos in some of the Arab countries right now, I can’t help wishing those various branches of Islam could understand this simple notion. And may the extremely hospitable people of their countries, like Noura’s family, teach them the lesson of co-existence, even in time of harshness.

Official Cultural Detective Animal

We already have a Cultural Detective theme song (La Boca de Cultura) thanks to our multicultural, multi-talented friends Kotolán. I now suggest that, as do many nations of our world, we name an official Cultural Detective animal. And my nomination is the thaumoctopus mimicus.

While many animals change shape or color, the Mimic Octopus studies others and then mimics their movements and their looks — instantly! And this octopus’ repertoire includes at least 15 different species!

Come on, polyglots, global nomads, TCKs, and other blended culture people, can you top that? It changes its behavior to suit its environment, and its behavior is contextually effective. Sound like anyone you know? Wonder who teaches, trains or coaches these octopi?

The thaumoctopus mimicus, or Culturoctopus Detecticus, would definitely seem to be one ethnorelatively developed, or, ahem, shall I say, “marizo-relatively” developed animal. Below you can view a short video of my nomination in action.

Let me know if you have other nominations, or thoughts on this one!

“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work!”

“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work: Rather than extinguish prejudice, diversity training promotes it!” This was the title of a 12 March 2012 Psychology Today online article.

While so many of us complain about media sensationalism, I begrudgingly have to admit that, in this case, the inflammatory title led me to read this article from among the 200+ crossing my desk that day.

The article’s author, Peter Bregman, relies on research from 2007 to prove his point. He repeats or paraphrases the subtitle four times throughout his article, each time stating it as fact. Yet, in reviewing the original research he cites, I feel it does not support his premise. The original paper is much more nuanced and even-handed (“certain programs increase diversity in management jobs but others do little or nothing”).

While I take issue with much of what Mr. Bregman says in his article (that there are two types of diversity training, for example: those that tell people what to say/not say, and those that break people into categories. Come on, really?), there is also learning to be gained from it. His conclusion: “We decided to [teach all managers] to listen and speak with each other — no matter the difference — which is the key to creating a vibrant and inclusive environment,” was one I could heartily agree with.

Let me focus this post on the constructive learning we might get from this article. Mr. Bregman urges the reader to do nine different things. I consolidate them, as there was quite a bit of redundancy. They are:
  1. See people as people instead of categories. Train them to work with a diversity of individuals, not with a diversity of categories. Move beyond similarity and diversity to individuality. Don’t reinforce labels, which only serve to stereotype. Reveal singularities. Help them resist the urge to think about people as categories.
    • I wholeheartedly agree! Yes!!! Please! That is exactly why Cultural Detective looks at an interactional process of how people communicate in real situations (using the Worksheet with real-life or prepared critical incidents).
    • It is why we have a package titled, Cultural Detective: Self Discovery, aiding users to create Personal Values Lenses.
    • It is why Cultural Detective: Blended Culture looks at the multicultural experience of so many of the individuals in our world today.
    • It is why our definitions of “culture” go way beyond nationality or ethnicity, and include looking at multiple influences on why we are the way we are (see Layering Lenses).
    • While we are all unique individuals, we are also all members of groups and communities, and our world views are shaped by those groups (cultures) in which we were raised. Cultures establish patterns of behavior that are historically sanctioned, so we each learn all kinds of things that seem natural, yet are culturally determined. Viewing people as unique individuals not influenced by culture is a step backwards, and not helpful in understanding others.
  2. Stop training people to be “accepting” because it doesn’t work.
    • Again I agree! If people can better understand themselves, and get a bit of insight into why others might behave the way they do, we won’t need to lecture them. These are two of the Cultural Detective Model’s three core capacities (Subjective Culture/know ourselves, Cultural Literacy/understand others’ intent, Cultural Bridge/skills and systems for leveraging similarities and differences).
  3. Teach people to have difficult conversations with a range of individuals.
    • Yes! The CD Worksheet came to life as a conflict resolution tool in multicultural workplaces in Japan in the 1980s and 90s. It emerged from diverse individuals having just such difficult conversations.
  4. Teach managers how to manage the variety of employees who report to them. Teach them how to develop the skills of their various employees.
    • While I might offer this as one reason to conduct diversity training, coaching, or mentoring, I can definitely agree with the goal. Cultural Detective offers a process for understanding, valuing and leveraging individual cultural differences. Our newest package, Cultural Detective Bridging Cultures, focuses precisely on skill development.
  5. Help them resist the urge to think about others as just like themselves.
    • Yes! Thinking about others as just like ourselves is one stage of a developmental process. Learning to distinguish the ways in which we truly are similar and different, seeing value in the similarities and the differences, and creating ways to benefit from them, is what Cultural Detective is all about.

The initial research referenced in the article, (“Diversity Management in Corporate America,” Frank Dobbin, Alexandra Kalev, and Erin Kelly, American Sociological Association, 2007), was a systemic study of 829 companies, designed to see which kinds of diversity programs work best, on average. A weakness in the original study is that it looked purely at diversity, not on inclusion or competence to manage diversity.

Having said that, the findings showed that diversity councils, diversity leaders, and mentoring programs most strongly correlate with increased management diversity, while training and diversity performance evaluations have a lower correlation. To quote the study authors, “On average, programs designed to reduce bias among managers responsible for hiring and promotion have not worked. Neither diversity training to extinguish stereotypes, nor diversity performance evaluations to provide feedback and oversight to people making hiring and promotion decisions, have accomplished much. This is not surprising in the light of research showing that stereotypes are difficult to extinguish. … Research shows that educating people about members of other groups may reduce stereotyping.”

“Optional (not mandatory) training programs and those that focus on cultural awareness (not the threat of the law) can have positive effects. In firms where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity. Managers respond negatively when they feel that someone is pointing a finger at them.”

The original article by Dobbin, Kaley, and Kelley presents three broad approaches to increasing diversity:
  • Changing the attitudes and behaviors of managers
  • Improving the social ties of women and minorities
  • Assigning responsibility for diversity to special managers and task forces

These are all situations in which the Cultural Detective Model can be used to help shape constructive interactions and manage differences effectively.

What do you think?