Why Storytelling in the Intercultural Context?

storytellingStories are the cornerstone of the Cultural Detective Method, and we have written about them on this blog quite often. Today I am very pleased to share with you a guest blog post by Joanna Sell, storyteller extraordinaire. She will be leading a complimentary webinar for us on 6th December 2018. Register now!

You might be asking why storytelling in intercultural communication? This exact question marked the beginning of my journey towards the storytelling approach. When I was setting the sails, I had no idea where it would bring me. I simply knew that my clients in the business world, my students at the universities, and many people working across cultures desperately wanted golden recipes on how to behave in intercultural contexts. Does that sound familiar to you?

Following the motto, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” people wanted to hear do’s and don’ts for communicating and cooperating with the “inhabitants of Rome.” What struck me, mostly, was the fact that they were deeply convinced that such “ready-made recipes” existed or were useful.

On one hand they acknowledged the diversity of their own groups and said: “Well, our group is very diverse in terms of age, gender, professional background, and nationality, and it is clear that our setting is ‘colorful,’ but we are here to hear about ‘Rome and the Romans.'” I asked myself why was it so easy to talk about a mosaic of cultures in their own groups while also asking for do’s and don’ts lists for communicating with “the others.”

Everything changed once we exchanged stories. Suddenly, the beauty of diversity became tangible and the focus moved towards practicing perspective change, self-reflection regarding communication skills, and a clear shift from “autopilot modus” towards curiosity and acceptance of differing thinking patterns.

As an intercultural trainer and coach I was overwhelmed—and I experienced my own personal change, as well. I still provided input on doing business and working in teams in countries of my expertise, and I addressed the challenges and rewards of virtual leadership. However, I began to incorporate the experience and knowledge of the participants into my programs much more. Why? Because the narrative approach and various storytelling methods guided me to get to know my participants better, allowing me to better tailor the content to their needs.

Additionally, thanks to the exchange of stories, they got to know one another from a completely new perspective and were willing to share their experiences in an open manner. A setting of psychological safety and an atmosphere of trust were the most wonderful gifts most of us experienced during time spent together sharing stories. Discussions about establishing trust and designing a team charter took on completely new dynamics. When we talked about action plans at the end of the meeting, participants were much more committed to following through, as well as to risk story sharing in their professional contexts and to apply storytelling methods in their daily lives.

I gathered the list of the reasons that storytelling works so well in the intercultural context, and I welcome your ideas to add to my observations.

  • Storytelling allows discovering cultural roots from multiple perspectives.
  • Storytelling offers insights into complexity of multicultural identities.
  • Storytelling supports zooming in and out, i.e., perspective change.
  • Storytelling adds the emotional layer to the cognitive level.
  • Storytelling serves as means of transmitting cultures.
  • Storytelling deals with new stories of belonging.
  • Storytelling initiates change processes.
  • Storytelling moves hearts.

Testing an Incredible New Process

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This chart paper contains words that describe the Spanish-speaking families. The client still has that sheet up in their conference room months after the training.

Guest blog post by Bego Lozano, who has lived and worked in different countries and cultures over the past 20 years. Right now, she calls home the Bay Area of California where she focuses on mindful leadership and coaching.

As a fan and user of both Cultural Detective® and Personal Leadership®, I was delighted to learn that there is a tool called EPIC (Essential Practice of Intercultural Competence) that combines both.

I recently used the EPIC Toolkit to design, deliver and facilitate a training for a California-based NGO that focuses on supporting those affected by Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. This NGO had a unique challenge: funding for programs aimed at Spanish-speaking families had stopped with the 2008 financial crisis and had only recently returned. Their first attempt at organizing an event had fallen short of their expectations—both their internal expectations and those of their partners. They hired me to help make sure that didn’t happen again; they wanted to get the word out about prevention and treatment in powerful and meaningful ways. I turned to EPIC.

The beauty of EPIC is that participants develop awareness into what they personally bring to their work, plus gain insight and understanding of the core values of a culture different than their own. Quite often we forget that as human beings we bring our own cultural lenses to everything we do, and understanding a situation from our own perspective only gives us, at most, half the picture.

After an EPIC training, participants become more mindful of their own values and actions—why they respond in the ways they do. They learn to appreciate the values of the different culture, and most importantly, to build bridges to work better together.

EPIC is not a one-time fix; it is a process of continuous feedback and change, a mobius strip that has space for constant improvement and nuances. It is about competence, and therefore it includes practicing relentlessly and compassionately.

Last I checked, the programs for Spanish-speaking families were doing much better: employees had implemented small and significant changes that had increased participants’ engagement and comfort and their partner’s reported meaningful improvement. People were excited about their jobs and the positive impact they can have in their communities. If you’d like to learn more about EPIC or give it a spin yourself, it is available for license and is such a value!

Become a Certified Facilitator

Register now to learn to use Cultural Detective’s robust and personally customized online system to improve intercultural competence in your communities, organizations and teams—bridging the issues that polarize our societies and leveraging differences as assets.

We have two upcoming workshops, one in San Diego USA in October and the other in Vienna AUSTRIA in November. Proceeds from both events will support the respective SIETAR (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research) organizations. You will leave the workshop with a developmentally-sound set of tools in your hands and the knowledge and skill to use them. You will form meaningful, long-lasting relationships with leading professionals. And, as a certified facilitator, you will receive a 10% discount when you license our printed materials, a listing on our website, and one-month access to Cultural Detective Online.

Below is the flyer from SIETAR Austria, and following that is a video from SIETAR USA:

CD Vienna 2017 p1CD Vienna 2017 p2

Click on the link to learn more or secure your seat now.

2 Continents, 3 Opportunities

Would you like to improve your skills for working in a multicultural, geographically dispersed team or organization? For leading such teams? Are you charged with developing diversity and inclusion competence, or intercultural competence, in your students, colleagues or clients? Would you benefit from an intercultural competence tool that looks at people as unique individuals influenced by multiple different cultures (organizational, professional training, age/generation, spiritual tradition) and teaches critical thinking in context?

If so, you will want to attend a Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification programs. Use of Cultural Detective does not require certification—the Cultural Detective Method and materials were designed with the idea that they could be used by interested non-specialists. However, the Cultural Detective Series is so robust that users ask for in-depth workshops to learn more about the many applications and strengths of this versatile approach, and to network with peers using the Cultural Detective Method.

Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshops are designed for small groups who share two-and-a-half days of intense, guided interaction; the current schedule of workshops is below. We explore what “intercultural communication competence” means and offer ways to use Cultural Detective to enhance intercultural effectiveness in your organization or community.

We have three public sessions on the calendar for 2017:

  1. IRELAND, Dublin, 22-24 May
  2. USA, Portland OR, 22-23 July
  3. AUSTRIA, Vienna, 23-25 November

In the video below, George Simons, a prolific Cultural Detective author and trainer of facilitators, explains what you can expect in a Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification. While his focus is the training in Dublin in May 2017, the process and content apply to any of our public certifications worldwide.

Register now to secure your seat for the workshop of your choice as spaces are limited. Certification Workshops are a wonderful way for the advanced practitioner to reflect on the things that matter, and develop the ability to combine and integrate various theories, approaches, and tools in the field. Those who are newer to the intercultural field will learn a developmental process that is theoretically grounded and proven effective, and that supplements and dovetails with the frequently used dimensions-based approaches. We explore the impact of multiple cultures on each of us, the idea of layering Value Lenses to visually represent these influences, and a variety of ways to incorporate Cultural Detective into your training, teaching and coaching.

We all very much look forward to seeing you there!

Cross-cultural Teaming in a Laboratory

This is a guest blog post written by Amy Prunuske and Katie Nemeth. Their biographies follow the text.

lab-1825276The laboratory is a multicultural environment that stimulates innovation but also contributes to misunderstandings. Scientists often have formal training in research techniques, but rarely in communication, and particularly not in cross-cultural communication.

In the University of Wisconsin biochemistry laboratory in which Amy did her research training, there were lab mates from Korea, Germany, Japan, India, and Poland, as well as the USA. This diversity is vital for the development of new ideas, but it can also create communication challenges. Many of the undergraduates in the US Midwest come to the university with minimal exposure to people from different backgrounds, so it is important to help them understand that different cultures have differing verbal and nonverbal rules mediating social interactions.

During Katie’s postdoctoral training, she participated in many active learning and training workshops. While diversity and inclusivity were part of the lesson designs, she wondered if and how students could become actively mindful of the role that culture plays in a group setting. Seeking out ideas, she participated in non-science workshops and discovered Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures. After finding this vital missing link, Katie worked with Amy to add the experiential learning component to various courses and groups in the biology department.

We have found that Ecotonos is an amazing way to expose scientists to the existence of cultural differences and how to use them as assets. As part of the activity, students are divided into three monocultural groups: Delphenius, Zante, and Aquila—each with a unique set of cultural characteristics. Ecotonos comes with ten sets of rule cards, three case studies and three different tasks, so students can play the game repeatedly and each time it’s different. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

In our work with the biology students, we have them practice their new cultural rules by creating a flag that represents the values of their culture (see pictures). The students in the monocultural groups enjoy taking on these new characteristics, with some finding it easy and others finding it challenging to behave in new ways.

After the monocultural work, participants are re-sorted into multicultural groups of different structures: minority-majority, joint venture with balanced populations, and diverse membership with representatives of all three cultures. In their multicultural groups, we have them rank the performance of three hypothetical workers, with the three workers demonstrating characteristics similar to one of the three sets of group rules. This exposes the participants to the ways in which we can be biased toward people with behaviors similar to those of our own culture, and allows students to practice getting beyond their biases.

We have used the program as part of the introduction to the biology laboratory, where they will be expected to work in groups, as well as in programs for undergraduates from groups under-represented in the sciences.

Ecotonos is a great ice breaker activity for the students to get to know their classmates, and students often carry forward some of the behaviors learned during the activity, like snapping in approval, as part of creating a new shared culture for their group. Most students find the activity to be fun, and leave it with a much greater appreciation for the challenges of working across cultures.

Here’s a typical student comment: “It was helpful to understand how difficult it might be interacting with a different culture for the first time.” This is an important lesson for scientists, who often believe their discipline is a meritocracy not subject to the biases that are universally found. We are currently measuring the impact of Ecotonos using the cultural intelligence assessment.

We would like to thank Dr. Shelley Smith for introducing Ecotonos to us.  We are grateful for the time she took to share her expertise in running the activity.

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Amy Prunskee is a Faculty Curriculum Program Manager and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Medical College of Wisconsin — Central Wisconsin.

katie-nemeth2
Katie Nemeth is an Assistant Professor of the teaching faculty in College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN.

 

Latin America and Its Place in World Life

3958-90321696-F367-EA4B-1108-B433EB1D3BCD.jpg_850This post, authored by Dianne and Fernando Parrado, was originally published on the ICI blog on April 6, 2016. Información en español.

Latin America is assuming its rightful place in the global arena, not only as a leading economy, but also as a model for innovative social movements.

This largest region in the world has long been admired for sharing its powerful music, dance, literature, visual art—and the only world heritage cuisine. Latin America has taken a key leadership role in exploring innovative solutions for restructuring societal inequity and promoting responsible development and the sustainable use of natural resources. Many of these efforts are based on popular, direct-democratic movements, including indigenous social movements.

However, the outstanding features of Latin America culture continue to be a sense of timelessness, an emphasis on the worth of personality, and an instinctive protest against the idea that success in business and the accumulation of wealth are superior to the acquisition of culture. Eleven Latin American nations include multiculturalism and multilingualism in their constitutions, and an additional four recognize indigenous rights.

The average Latin American thinks differently about such fundamental concepts as time, work, success, joy, truth, and beauty. In other words, it is life itself, not its possessions or achievements, that tend to be most worthwhile to Latin Americans. Being what you want to be is generally more important than getting what you want.

The Latin America worldview may hold the answers to many of the issues facing our world today, including climate change. Yet Latin America has often been culturally misunderstood. Important Latin American values such as communalism, expressiveness, celebration, and indigenous respect for the earth are frequently under-appreciated.

While often viewed as a single market with a shared language, religion, history, and culture, it is actually home to hundreds of languages and ethnicities, and diverse histories, geographies, economies, and political systems.

Latinos abroad bring perspectives and insights that can be used to generate innovative solutions and create vibrant, cohesive communities. As group orientation breaks down in various cultures worldwide, we must ask: Are we making the most of Latino talent? What do we need to do to be interculturally competent with members of the Latino diaspora?

We very much look forward to having you join us for this highly experiential workshop where we will explore the richness, complexity, irony, and promise of the hundreds of cultures that comprise Latin America. Taught by both of us, the workshop is called “Latin America and Its Place in World Life,” and it will take place July 13-15, 2016, during the 40th annual Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication.

During the workshop we will look backward: what Latin America looked like during the height of the Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations, what the conquista and the slave trade meant for the region, the gifts of resources and talent the region has provided, and how such history and heritage affects life in the region today. We will look at the present: how do people from different ethnicities, socio-economic levels and geographic areas communicate and collaborate, and how can we work and live with them more effectively? Finally, we will also look forward: what are some of the unique experiences and insights that Latin America has to share with the world, and what we can learn from Latin America to enrich our view of life?

Those of you who enroll in the workshop will receive a one-month subscription to the Cultural Detective Online, so you can use this resource during the workshop and have time afterwards to continue your learning at your convenience.

SIIC is one of the world’s premier venues for networking with and learning from professionals in the fields of intercultural communication and diversity. We trust you’ll join us for this annual learning opportunity! Click here to register for Session 1, Workshop 6, Latin America and Its Place in World Life.

Announcing the Fifth Edition of Ecotonos: Build Cross-Cultural Teams!

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Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures is a classic in the intercultural field. It simulates teaming across cultural differences, and thus helps learners practice and refine cross-cultural collaboration skills. It can be played multiple times for developmental learning, since there is no “trick” to the game. Play and debrief require a minimum of 100 minutes, but is so rich that quite a few professors refer back to and pull learning from the Ecotonos experience throughout the entire semester of a course.

First published in 1992, Ecotonos is now in its fifth edition!

I want to thank—immensely—Kathryn Stillings, who headed up the most recent reprinting: from finding sources for the plastic carrying case and the metal culture buttons, to proofreading and managing the printing, and hardest of all, assembling the finished product and getting it shipped off to our fulfillment center. And she claims to have had fun doing it!

The photos below prove that when you purchase Ecotonos you are getting hand-assembled, artisanal quality goods! 😉 Click on any image to view it larger or see a slideshow. Of course, Kathryn took the pictures, so you sadly don’t see her in any of these.

If you don’t use Ecotonos in your classes or trainings, you are missing out on an invaluable tool for developing cross-cultural teaming competence. The game can be reused for years and years; order yours today!

Developing Cultural Competency as a Life-long Journey

CSxMJSzXAAARY7-I have long admired Christian Höferle of The Culture Mastery. He is a German-born intercultural trainer and consultant living in Georgia (USA), a certified facilitator of Cultural Detective, and writes a funny and useful blog that has taught US-born me a lot about southern US culture.

Christian recently began a new podcast series—The Culture Guy—that keeps me chuckling while also reminding me what’s important about cross-cultural effectiveness. I was honored to be his third guest, and thoroughly enjoyed the wide-ranging conversation. Christian is intelligent, witty, and committed to excellence. I trust you will find the interview worthwhile; you can listen by clicking the playbar below or on this link.

After you’ve listened to the podcast, please take a moment to share with us one of your “cultural fool” moments, an example of when your “common sense” wasn’t shared, or a favorite tip for success across cultures. We look forward to reading them!

Enhance Your Training Design Skills!

thIn two complimentary webinars next week—at times convenient to different world time zones—Cultural Detective Senior Trainer of Facilitators, Tatyana Fertelmeyster, will share her wealth of expertise designing intercultural competence workshops.

This professional development opportunity is aimed at those committed to building understanding, respect and collaboration where they work and live. It requires a basic familiarity with Cultural Detective—you know how the famous Lego children’s toy generally works, and you want to learn how to build really cool projects out of it. Similar to Legos, Cultural Detective provides endless opportunities for creating meaningful and engaging learning in a variety of settings.

Participants will explore ways to build everything from a two-hour training session to a semester-long course, and from a culture-specific learning to a leadership development strategy. Bring your experiences, your curiosity, and your ideas, and let’s play with “Lego” together!

The webinars will take place on September 8th and 9th. The first is scheduled convenient to Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The second should be easy to attend for anyone in Africa, the Americas, Europe or the Middle East.

Sign up now to reserve your place, as seating is limited!

Please email your specific questions prior to the webinar to Tatyana Fertelmeyster at connecting.differences@gmail.com. We look forward to having you join us!

 

Report from the Field: Creating Models Worthy of Emulation

IMG_6315-640x480Many thanks to Benjamin Smith, Ph.D., linguist, intercultural consultant and trainer, and owner of Broad Imagination LLC, for this guest post.

“Recently, I was invited to lead a cultural sensitivity training for a company facing some key human resource challenges. I was given a little background information prior to my arrival, but stopped the director short as he was bringing me up-to-speed in our meeting, in order to be able to gather information during the needs assessment without preconceived notions.

The printed workbook and facilitator guide that I use to supplement my training is produced by Cultural Detective®, a company with decades of success in the intercultural field. I find that their philosophy dovetails well with mine in that they help me guide users through a process of understanding the “Lenses” through which they see the world.

To accomplish this objective, Cultural Detective® presents Values Lenses—for key cultures such as nationality, gender, spiritual tradition, age or generation, and sexual orientation—as well as Personal Values Lenses.

I feel blessed to have worked with such a remarkable group of individuals who are committed to improving their intercultural communication skills. One of the most important takeaways for me from the training was realizing that obtaining a better understanding of where we come from refines our assessment of others, and sheds a positive light on helping us accurately interpret others’ behavior.

Obtaining a better understanding of where we come from, refines our assessment of others and sheds a positive light on helping us accurately interpret others’ behavior.

My approach to the project included one-on-one interviews with each participant during and at the conclusion of the training. Thanks to valuable advice from more experienced interculturalists, the interviews enabled me to gather useful information—people often reveal things in private that they are reticent to share with a group. These insights informed the content and delivery of the training.

I deliberately engaged my strength of connectedness as I spoke with people individually. The interviews afforded me the opportunity to create a space where I could genuinely listen to participants and tailor the training to their concerns. I typically schedule a follow-up interview after the training to assess what learning has taken place.

In this intimate setting, prior to and after the training, I find that, while people are eager to talk about what everyone else is doing wrong, they are not so quick to admit their own faults. They often overemphasize their exhaustive efforts to resolve intercultural conflicts, and minimize the efforts of their colleagues.

Through appreciative inquiry and inductive listening, I can facilitate peoples’ ability to see the things they were not initially aware of, and shed light on areas where their efforts can be more effective, to gain traction and avoid spinning their wheels. These interviews are powerful supplements to the training itself, enabling participants to apply their learning and develop personal development plans.

I designed several activities for the group sessions during which participants would be able to showcase their cultures and articulate their Personal Values Lens—the glass through which they view the world, colored by the values they embrace.

It was refreshing to see how people listened to and celebrated the cultural traditions shared by others through songs, recipes, and inside family jokes. There were several points when we analyzed family stories that had been passed through the generations, and examined the values those stories contain. It was amazing to see how participants recognized the uniqueness of each individual and what they had to share. It was also a great reminder of how anxious people are to be recognized for their contributions.

It was amazing to see how those present recognized the uniqueness of each individual and what they had to share. It was also a great reminder of how anxious people are to be recognized for their contributions.

Another facet of my company’s approach—Broad Imagination LLC—supported by the Cultural Detective® Model, consists of helping clients develop solutions themselves through a facilitated discussion. A Cultural Detective® session is not a passive chat that is forgotten when we all go home. It requires me, as a facilitator, to be present—to truly listen to and push participants for practical solutions. People tend to skirt difficult topics and slip into euphemisms or clichés as a way of avoiding the “elephant in the room.” I appreciated the courage of those who were willing to name their fears, explore them, and address them publicly.

IMG_6318-640x480Some “aha” moments for trainees in this session included:

  1. Common sense is not the same as cultural sense. What we may consider to be general knowledge or a logical conclusion is not shared by everyone. Knowing that different cultures have a unique perspective on any given cultural encounter helps us open our minds and make room for unexpected conclusions.
  2. All countries do not have the same value for “ethnic exoticness” and, therefore, respect. For example, in the USA, one may appreciate a Mexican flag being displayed in a cubicle, while the display of a Canadian flag might not earn the same appreciation. It is far more common that the more “exotic” and underrepresented the culture, the more interest we take in their displays of nationalism and pride.
  3. It doesn’t matter how much time someone has spent living among other cultures, biases persist and are hard to shake. It is one thing to spend time abroad, and another to make the effort to go outside our comfort zones to truly understand another’s cultural Lens.
  4. Language has a way of revealing lack of trust in an organization. When there is low trust, it does not matter what a person does, it can still touch off our sensibilities. Being offended that someone is speaking an unfamiliar language in our presence may cause us to bristle because we suspect that they are talking about us. It may not be that the language is threatening or that there are unsavory nonverbal cues, rather simply the fact that the language is spoken in a low-trust environment results in a negative spiral of lower trust.
  5. All we can really do is observe behavior. When we seek to explain why someone did something or what their motives were, we are venturing into judgment and assumptions. Assuming the best positive intent behind observed words and actions helps mitigate potential incorrect negative perceptions and opens our mind to collaborative solutions.

The Cultural Detective® Model emphasizes three core competencies: Subjective Culture (understanding ourselves); Cultural Literacy (our ability to understand others); and Building Cultural Bridges (the ability for two or more people to collaborate productively across cultures). These competencies are taught in a variety of ways, but I have found that when learners participate in this discovery of cultural identity through provocative discussions, they overcome their anxieties and find that the issues they once believed to be insurmountable obstacles are really stepping-stones to greater appreciation and collaboration.

I love the fact that this particular client’s mission focused on “creating a positive model.” That is precisely what intercultural training provides. The training that Broad Imagination aims to deliver, and which Cultural Detective® helped accomplish, created a model worthy of emulation, one that will serve as a touch stone for future positive intercultural encounters.

Armed with an appreciation for the rich and unique cultural heritage that each employee brings to the table (representing a plethora of values and cultural influences), participants can now implement specific strategies with their colleagues, and try new approaches to the same situations—with improved results, greater personal satisfaction and increased intercultural confidence.