4 Reasons to Add EPIC to Your Toolbox

EPIC_cover

Many thanks to Debbie Bayes, Intercultural Consultant and Trainer at culturecrux.org, for this guest blog post.

I recently had the chance to use EPIC (Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence) for the first time with a group of people who train student leaders in a university setting. There were several surprises along the way… all of them good!

  1. Reasonably quick prep to put together a quality training event—The structure of the EPIC process, which brings together both Cultural Detectiveand Personal Leadership methods,made it possible to plan a quality training event in a short amount of time. It saved me hours of work and was a breeze to facilitate!
  2. It was helpful to have the EPIC experience to look back on when going over IDI results after the training—This particular group had asked each member to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) prior to the EPIC training. As I met with individuals to go over their IDI results following the training, I found that having the common EPIC experience to look back on provided many concrete examples that I could use to illustrated ideas that are sometimes difficult for people to grasp. Concepts like the limitations of Minimization and the value of working towards Acceptance were far easier to explain because moving through the EPIC process so clearly and tangibly demonstrated both.
  3. EPIC worked well with people at all levels—Because I had IDI results on the group before doing the EPIC training, I had some sense of people’s abilities prior to meeting with them. Participants in the group ranged from Denial to Acceptance. It can be difficult to plan an event for a group that has such a wide range of abilities. I was pleased to find that everyone in the group was engaged and interested throughout the training.
  4. EPIC was fun and eye-opening—The two most frequent comments I received on the EPIC training in the weeks following were that it was both fun and eye-opening. The training challenged the participants, caused them to see both themselves and cultural others in new ways, and inspired them to press on to learn more. And all the while, they were having fun!

I expect to use EPIC frequently in the year ahead. It’s a great tool to have in the box!

You Trust a Quiz to Tell You Who You Are?

Your profile now!

Depp photo @Examiner
Honsou photo ©Armando Gallo/Retna Ltd

You may have had the same experience I have: clients, students, trainees and colleagues often ask me what assessment tools I recommend. My response, of course, is “for what purpose? What do you want to assess?” Sadly they usually can not answer that question. They know they want something online, something quick. They want something that provides immediate feedback, either inexpensively or for free. But, they rarely have focused in on a purpose, on what they want to learn through the “assessment.”

Sometimes I hear, “To give our people a profile of themselves—a profile of their style that tells them who and how they are.” The assumption is that, by understanding ourselves via this hypothetical quick, online, inexpensive or free assessment, we will immediately (almost magically) become empowered to collaborate more effectively across cultures.

Now don’t misunderstand me: assessments and inventories can be incredibly helpful tools. We are all better served by understanding our learning styles, personality traits, and communication skills. Taking a quick online assessment can also be fun. Heck, those quizzes in the magazines can be entertaining: What kind of personality am I in the bedroom based on whether the quiz says I’m more attracted to Johnny Depp or Djimon Honsou. I had fun just writing that sentence!

However, I can’t help but feel the world is just a WEE bit out of whack when we trust a personal profile, produced by a quick survey, more than we trust our own 20, 50 or more years of experience living with and as ourselves. Profiles can be informative: they can stimulate thinking and conversation. But they are not going to, in and of themselves, improve my ability, either in the bedroom or to work cross-culturally.

What causes us to want a profile? We are by and large intelligent people. We are adults. We know ourselves. Many of us want the quick and easy “answer” because our days are so full. Many of us don’t take time for contemplation, practice, or deep meaningful dialogue—even though these are precisely the acts via which wisdom, happiness and, yes, competence are achieved.

Let’s face it: intercultural competence, like all the other important abilities in life (good parenting, sound health, even skills with technology) involves PRACTICE. We need to stay current, we need to both broaden and deepen our abilities and experience.

So, keeping in mind the importance of HOW we use assessment tools, and the importance of a regular structured practice to improve our abilities, there are a handful of “profile” tools in the cross-cultural field that I find useful. Why do I like these particular instruments? They involve or encourage the contemplation, practice and deep meaningful dialogue of which I’ve written, and that research shows is required in order to improve cross-cultural competence. Some tools I can recommend are:

  1. Cultural Detective Self Discovery: This unique product in the Cultural Detective series helps individuals to investigate their cultural identities and develop a “Personal Values Lens.” Through a structured sequence of short exercises and discussions, individuals identify their core values, the positive and negative aspects of these values, and the thinking and behavior that flows from them. They then explore how their values and behaviors may be similar to and different from those of cultural groups. This Personal Values Lens can be used in conjunction with the Cultural Detective Online system for individualized structured learning, or, better yet, with the guidance of a facilitator or coach.
  2. The International Profiler: This terrific tool by our friends and colleagues at WorldWork involves a web-based psychometric questionnaire, followed by coaching sessions, to help develop an individual’s ability to operate effectively in unfamiliar cultural contexts. Nigel Ewington has been piloting ways of combining The International Profiler (TIP) and Cultural Detective (CD), to harness the best of both. Perhaps we can ask him to do a guest post about that?
  3. Personal Leadership: This methodology offers a way of being and interacting with the world that begins from the “inside out,” one that asks people to be fully present in their lives, awake to their habitual behaviors, and willing to look at situations with “beginner’s mind.” Of particular interest in this context is the personal visioning practice. Barbara Schaetti and Heather Robinson and I have created a MashUp process aimed at leveraging the dynamic interaction possible with Personal Leadership (PL) and Cultural Detective (CD).
  4. The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), originally based on the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), is a statistically reliable, cross-culturally valid measure of intercultural sensitivity. What I love about it is that it is developmental: great for charting individual or group progress. It can be completed online, with the assistance of a qualified administrator, and involves individualized feedback. Ideally the IDI is used as part of a process that also involves development planning and coaching.

We can have all the information in the world about ourselves, but if we do not have the courage and diligence to act on it, it is worth very little. None of the tools discussed above provides instantaneous transformation or the magic pixie dust of cross-cultural collaboration. Nor, I imagine, will they give me an evening with either Johnny or Djimon. But with ongoing, mindful practice and the guidance of a good coach or trainer, we will find worlds open to us that we might never have imagined, and we will develop the ability to collaborate more effectively across cultures—exactly what many of our clients are asking for. Each of the tools above dovetails very well with the Cultural Detective Series: TIP and IDI can help you chart progress using CD as a developmental tool, and PL helps ensure the inner work that should accompany CD use happens.

There are many more inventories, assessments and collaborative tools in the intercultural field. What are some of your favorites? How do you use them for maximum effectiveness? How do you motivate yourself and others to practice? What do you wish existed to address specific developmental needs and challenges?

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.