Want to Get Interculturally “Fit”?

The image above is part of the “Got Milk?” ad campaign; the copyrights belong to their owners. We reproduce the image here to equate the ideas “Got milk?” and “Got intercultural competence?”

Got intercultural competence? Want to get interculturally “fit”?

Do you want to improve the success of your international negotiations? Mergers and acquisitions? Want to get more productivity and even joy out of your virtual teams and projects? How about jump starting the outcomes of study abroad and international education?

Intercultural competence is not something you attend a workshop about and then check it off your list. Just as physical fitness requires ongoing activity, practice, commitment and discipline, so does the development of intercultural competence. You do not become physically fit by exercising and eating right one week out of 52. Nor do you become interculturally competent merely by having lived abroad or having earned road warrior status or flight rewards. Intercultural competence requires that we take the time and focused reflection to make meaning of our experience, to apply it, and then to keep refining and upgrading it.

Physical and intercultural fitness both require ongoing, structured practice. Discipline. We can’t be physically fit if we don’t exercise and move our bodies regularly. We can’t be interculturally fit if we don’t regularly reflect on our own values and behavior, that of others, and on our skills and strategies for bridging similarities and differences and making the most of diversity by creating inclusive spaces.

Terrific. So you’re committed to the journey. You want to get started. How? Well, to become physically fit you might start monitoring what you eat. You might join a gym, or commit to an exercise program. Similarly, to develop intercultural competence you could subscribe to Cultural Detective Online. You start a structured exercise program or join a gym of intercultural competence. At less than $100/year, a subscription is definitely cheaper than most gyms!

But, as we all know, joining the gym does not give us physical fitness. We have to actually GO TO the gym! We have to actually get out of the lounge chair and move our bodies, regularly and repeatedly!  So, we promise ourselves to spend an hour or two a week for the next three to six months, going into Cultural Detective Online to reflect on our experiences, dialogue with our teammates, learn about ourselves and others, upload and debrief stories from our daily lives. Perhaps we form a group of like-minded friends and colleagues, to support and encourage one another. And, as we practice, we find we enjoy it! We come to crave it! We start to look forward to the learning and insight! The cycle feeds itself, propels itself forward; each step towards intercultural fitness encourages us on to the next.

Finally, just as on our journey to improved physical fitness we might consult a nutritionist, dietician, personal trainer or coach, once we are committed to developing intercultural competence we may find it helpful to hire a personal trainer or coach. You have access to many talented professionals via the Cultural Detective authoring team, the list of certified facilitators, and the SIETAR (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research) chapters worldwide (list of chapters with links is at lower left of the linked page), as well as various coaching associations. There are more and more classes taught worldwide that incorporate the Cultural Detective Method and CD Online. We very much encourage you to take advantage of these resources.

We would love to hear from you about your intercultural fitness regime! Please share with us so that we might learn from and be encouraged by your progress!