Printable Maps for Use in Class

World-pa_0Do you work with people from an area of the world you know little about? Most of us aren’t that great at the geography of our own area of the globe, to say nothing about knowing the names of states, cities, or rivers half a globe away! It can be awkward when chatting with a colleague in another country and they talk about their weekend travels, but you have absolutely no idea whether they went to a city, the country, mountains, or seashore. Not the best way to build credibility! Even worse if your colleague is talking about organizational expansion plans, and you don’t know whether they’re talking north, south, east, or west! Learning some basic geographical literacy can be a great help in building relationships, trust, and productivity on a team.

To that end, in trainings I sometimes print out a blank or unlabeled map of a country or region, and ask my learners to fill it in. What better way to realize how much we have to learn? I often use it as a warm-up activity: something for those who arrive early to do while waiting for the on-time arrivals; a way to engage and focus learners.

The problem is finding the maps. I want accurate maps that print in high resolution. And, ideally, I want maps with the “answers,” labeled maps, as well as the blank or unlabeled ones. I would also like them to be free of charge. Enter Arizona State University’s Geographic Alliance, which has free downloadable and printable maps that are very useful for training and education. Be sure to check them out! They have maps for all seven continents, major world regions, and quite a few countries.

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The Alliance’s mission is to advocate for a geographically literate society. As such, they have elementary and secondary lesson plans focusing on Arizona, the USA, and the world. How wonderful is that? Foci of the lesson plans include GeoStem, GeoMath, GeoHistory, and GeoLiteracy. If you are an educator or play around with kids, be sure to check out their cool curricula! Samples include:

  1. Can You Hear Me Now? How a Country’s Wealth Influences Communication: students use scatter plots to discover relationships between the wealth of a country and the access of its citizens to modern methods of communication.
  2. Don’t Just Escape A Problem, Shape A Solution: An NBA Star’s Efforts to Fight Ethnic Hatred: students will identify the events that led to the formation of Group 7, Vlade Divac’s organization to aid child victims of war. Students will recognize how one person is able to identify a problem and make a positive impact on the world.
  3. From Around the Corner to Around the World: How Technology Helps in the Spread of a Product: students will examine the spread of one product (Coca-Cola) as aided by advances in technology. Students will mark on their maps their estimates of the spread of a product and then mark their maps again after receiving and discussing information. Students will culminate the lesson by writing a summary paragraph.
  4. Go, Buddha, Go: Patterns in the Spread of Religions: students will gain a better understanding of patterns of cultural diffusion, while also reinforcing their knowledge of where religions began and where they spread to.
  5. If These Walls Could Talk: Seeing a Culture Through Human Features: students will identify events that shape a culture, and identify human features in their own community.

Cultural Detective is a renowned process for developing intercultural competence by better understanding oneself, others, and bridging differences so that we harvest the added value of diversity. It is immediately applicable and theoretically grounded, and combines well with a host of other tools, activities and approaches. Maps are just one of these. To read some of our other articles about maps, click here.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence

P1280469I’ve been intending to write this post for a long time. Back in early 2012, longtime esteemed colleague Janet Bennett called me to ask a favor. I knew she was editing a new Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, a volume that should be in every serious library, so I was curious what she might ask of me. I was thrilled to hear that she wanted me to write an entry on “Creativity in Intercultural Training.”

Decades ago, colleagues would make fun of me for bringing into my training room yarn, masks, clay, scissors, colored paper, and glue. They swore to me that business people, executives in particular, did not like “crafts.” They would see us listening to music, moving, making human sculptures or films, and again swore that business people, especially executives, did not want to get so “creative.” Most of them were still lecturing or, perhaps, using critical incidents or cultural assimilator quizzes. While they wrote books, I created simulations and games. We all have our differing gifts.

The reason I felt so much passion about whole-body learning is that we all know intercultural competence involves our full selves: our mind, body and spirit, our emotions, brains, and hands. When entering a new place, we need to be able to hold onto our self esteem while letting go of what we “know” to be true. That involves super-human levels of wisdom, intuition, and flexibility. It involves “Super Learning,” and reinventing ourselves in a newer, more interculturally capable, edition. It involves creativity.

Things have obviously changed in our field in the intervening years. When Janet asked me to author the creativity entry for the Encyclopedia, I felt acknowledged for that uphill battle from so long ago. She instructed me that the entry would have to be short (five pages), as there would be over 300 entries total.

I very much enjoyed writing the piece, and am incredibly appreciative of my good friend Barbara Kappler, Assistant Dean, GPS Global Programs and Strategy, UMN Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota. She is perhaps the absolute best facilitator of intercultural learning I know, and she kindly reviewed and commented on my draft before I submitted the final version.

I highly recommend you purchase the complete two-volume encyclopedia, published by Sage in 2015, or ask your librarian to add it to their collection. The publishers have given me permission to share my three entries, however, so here is the link for you to read Intercultural Training Creativity.

Below is what Sage says about the full volume:

In 1980, SAGE published Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences. It opens with a quote from Blaise Pascal: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees that are falsehoods on the other.” The book became a classic—one of the most cited sources in the Social Science Citation Index—and subsequently appeared in a second edition in 2001. This new SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence picks up on themes explored in that book.

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms include cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise. What defines a culture? What barriers might block successful communication between individuals or agencies of differing cultures? How can those barriers be understood and navigated to enhance intercultural communication and understanding? These questions and more are explained within the pages of this new reference work.

Key Features:

  • 300 to 350 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes
  • Signed entries that conclude with Cross-References and Suggestions for Further Readings
  • Thematic “Reader’s Guide” in the front matter grouping  related entries by broad topic areas
  • Chronology that provides a historical perspective of the development of cultural competence as a discrete field of study
  • Resources appendix and a comprehensive Index

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is an authoritative and rigorous source on intercultural competence and related issues, making it a must-have reference for all academic libraries.

What Will They Think of Me?

ImprovMannheim

The International Improv Conference in Mannheim Germany June 2015

We are pleased to share with you today a guest blog post by Patricia Comolet; bio follows the post.

What is one of the main challenges of going into a new cultural situation? Of course—dealing with the unknown—and, often, the self-doubt that it can trigger:

OMG do I need to take off my shoes here? But I have a hole in my sock! What will they think of me?

In other situations, it could be defensive self-assertion that might be triggered:

It is clear that this situation requires someone here to take charge. As the new COO it is my job to step up to that challenge. I need to show that I know what I’m doing or what will they think of me?

Underneath the stress of adapting to an unknown situation or culture can be the insidious fear of judgment.

“Improv” is the art of improvisational theatre, and I find that building an “Improv mindset” is a unique way to prepare for a new office, new city, new country, and /or new culture. It offers a different and vibrant way to deal with the underlying question: What will they think of me?

Why is this so? In the world of Improv, the notion of judgment, with time and practice, fades. Instead, we learn a serendipitous mindset of responding, to the best of our ability, to whatever is presented. I believe that I can manage whatever shows up if I adapt some essential guidelines gained through Improv.

Through Improv exercises we can learn to give ourselves this initial moment to pause and open up to where we are and with whom we are interacting.

Want to try it? Get a partner who is open to learning.

  • Begin by simply looking at your partner to assess his/her current state. What’s going on for him/her? Take the time to assess the environment. What is happening around you? (Developing observational skills and emotional intelligence are two very fundamental intercultural competences, pivotal for any Cultural Detective.)
  • Then comes the basic improv approach: Yes, and. You respond to what has been proposed with a “yes, and.” However, this is not your run-of-the-mill “yes, I hear your thoughts, and here is my idea.” Rather, this is a most distinctive and committed “Yes, and I could add this to your thoughts.” Improv involves an upward spiraling “yes, and” with each participant focused on what they can add to the original proposition. You’ll find the “yes and” in the Cultural Detective list of A Dozen Best Practices for Enhancing Intercultural Excellence.

The magic happens in the process. Allowing ourselves to let go of our own approach or perspective long enough to hear and work with someone else’s provides the time and space necessary to really connect with others. The process builds bridges across divides.

It requires focused intention to step into the other person’s idea/culture/mindset, but once there, like Alice through the Looking Glass, there is a sort of wonder at what is possible. I found, in my improv training, a simmering excitement as I was caught up in the possibilities I could come up with—once I acknowledged the other’s vision of things.

By working with this technique we build acceptance and openness to new ideas. (More intercultural competences being honed here, right?)

Facts, feelings, and intentions are the raw material we have to work with. In the theatre, as in the world of cultural differences, it is the interpretations we assign to what we see and feel that trigger emotions within us. It is those emotions that influence our interpretations. By raising awareness of the power of the interpretations we unconsciously apply to unfamiliar situations, we can open a whole new way to experience what is going on around us. Improv provides a framework for considering other possible interpretations.

In the theatre, as in the world of cultural differences, it is the interpretations we assign to what we see and feel that trigger emotions within us.

Another valuable idea coming from the world of Improv is the simple notion of “make the other one look good.” No matter what is tossed at us during an Improv session, the spirit is to take what is and build on it positively, with the intention of making the other look good. Again, Cultural Detective’s “positive intent” parallels the philosophy of Improv.

Imagine what strength we would gain if we would approach new situations with the idea that it is up to us to make the other shine! What impact could such a positive sense of purpose have on us? How could it help us to adapt more enthusiastically to a new situation?

Improvisation has the benefit of being experiential learning that can help us truly assimilate the knowledge of a culture or people. This fits nicely into intercultural coaching, as cultural differences are easier to perceive when actually experienced. By playing with scenarios in a relaxed atmosphere, we can work through the specific challenges our clients are dealing with to help them experience a shift in their understanding—a shift to help fade the fear of “What will they think of me?

Improv techniques and Cultural Detective integrate easily together, with CD providing a framework in which to use the skills acquired through Improv to better communicate across cultures. Learning to let go of the idea that our approach is the only approach is part of what can be derived from utilizing the CD process. Cultural Detective Value Lenses help us to recognize that our interpretation of events is but one of many potential interpretations. And, the “yes, and” approach may help each person value and build on the diversity found within the interaction. If you haven’t yet, be sure to subscribe today.

PatriciaComoletOur guest author, Patricia Comolet, has a background in surgical nursing, and has worked and lived in seven countries on four continents, including work in Africa and India, honing her ability to get real results in difficult conditions. Currently, she focuses on coaching global and virtual team dynamics, integrating her skills developed during challenging work experiences with her coaching training. Patricia helps global teams to clarify their team dynamics and establish concrete objectives by promoting clear communication, creative problem solving, collective intelligence, and strong team identity. More information about her work can be found on her website: camcomcoaching.com

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.

Want to Get Out of the One-Shot Training Rut?

Ribbet collageOne Client’s Story

A few months ago I received a call from a dear friend and respected colleague. He told me that he had a client very committed to diversity and inclusion, that hired him once a quarter, every quarter, to design a 2-1/2 hour workshop. He delivered the workshop to a total of 300 employees, so he facilitated it about eight times over. Great client, right? A full week of work every quarter, on an ongoing basis…

He told me about some of the topics he’d covered, and some of the methods he’d used; they were all fantastic. He reported to me that everyone attending would have a really great time. The participants would learn, the evaluations would be excellent, and my friend would get hired back.

But he also told me that, while lucrative for him and enjoyable for the learners, he felt his approach wasn’t really accomplishing anything. My colleague was frustrated because he didn’t feel the learners were really developing skills, they weren’t changing what they did at work, and the organization wasn’t developing the intercultural competence it needs. He knows that real competence requires ongoing practice, and he thought Cultural Detective could help.

The client is a division of a major university. The employees interface daily with students and scholars from all over the world, and they, themselves, are a very diverse team. My colleague wanted to embark on a two-year project with a coherent, developmental design for his workshop series. He felt that Cultural Detective could be the anchor, the “backbone,” so to speak, the constant throughout the two years. But how did he plan to do this?

He wanted to start by having me join him for the first workshop, so that I could introduce the 300 employees of this university division to the Cultural Detective Model. While I was there with them, he wanted me to also train him and a few on-site facilitators (Diversity and Inclusion trainers as well as those from Organizational Effectiveness) in the Cultural Detective Method.

coverIslamOver the next two years, he wants to use Cultural Detective to help the employees develop more in-depth knowledge and skills for working with individual cultures. For example, one quarter they might learn more about how to work with East Asians, using CD ChinaCD Japan, etc., as resources. Another quarter they might focus on Muslim cultures, using CD IslamCD MalaysiaCD Arab Gulf, and CD Turkey, etc. In the months between workshops, supervisors will work with employees to ensure that the skills they learn in the workshops are applied on the job. They will use university staff and students as resources and after each workshop, program leaders will agree on an “application plan” to encourage employees to use the ideas presented and practice their skills between workshops.

How, exactly?

In the first workshop, we used critical incidents that were drafted by the client’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. These included stories of staff interaction with students from around the world, as well as stories of employee interaction with one another. We analyzed these incidents together in the workshop, and learned what each of us could do to improve our performance, to better understand our customers (in this case, students) and colleagues, and we generated ideas for improving the organization’s systems, procedures, and structures, to make it more inclusive. We also played several learning games and simulations, and participated in other, supplementary exercises.

Here is what program leaders agree will take place after the first workshop and before the second in order to help ensure skill development and application:

  • In the weekly “mini-meetings” that all supervisors conduct with staff, they will ask employees to share a “best intercultural practice” they’ve learned that week, as well as cross-cultural questions or incidents they’ve experienced.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force members will write up critical incidents and Sample Debriefs for each of the areas of the workplace that they represent. They will invite employees to attend sessions in which they discuss and analyze the incidents, thereby continuing to build employee knowledge and skill, and continuing to interculturalize organizational processes.

cover_selfdiscovery copyThe second workshop is planned for the first quarter of 2015. In that workshop, my colleague is planning to introduce Cultural Detective Self Discovery to the employees, helping them each to develop their own Personal Values Lenses. Employees will then compare their personal values with US American, African-American, and Latino-Hispanic values (the primary composition of the workforce), as well as to those values of the many nationalities of students with whom the employees work. They’ll learn how to remain true to themselves, and how to adapt their behavior to be more cross-culturally effective. They will also use their Personal Values Lenses to get to know one another in a more meaningful way, and to discuss ways to improve their work teams: how to effectively collaborate to bring out the best in each other.

Employee representatives, supervisors, and Diversity and Inclusion Task Force members will meet after the second workshop to decide on an application plan for what the employees have learned. Their goal will be to figure out how best to reinforce the learning on the job, to be sure it gets used, and that employees continue to develop their competence. In addition, they will work to ensure that the organization continues to refine its policies, procedures and structures for intercultural effectiveness.

My guess is they will recommend ongoing team meetings that use the Personal Values Lenses, as well as having teams share their own critical incidents based on their own experiences. In this manner, the group will continue developing their intercultural competence, they will develop a library of resources on intercultural effectiveness to use to train new hires and continue to develop themselves, and they will maximize the intercultural effectiveness of the organization. Program leaders will then plan the third workshop, followed by an application plan, and so on.

In this way, over the next two years, my colleague is confident that these 300 employees he’s had the pleasure of working with will truly develop their understanding of themselves as cultural beings. They will learn how to better manage cross-cultural situations with the students, and how to better function in the multicultural teams of which they are members. Plus, they will help improve the intercultural competence of the division in which they work.

I do hope they will do a pre- and post-assessment, using the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) or some other instrument, to track employees’ progress. It would also be useful to record the systemic and procedural changes made, and see if there are differences in work-team functioning and in student satisfaction with employee performance. I believe research of this sort would be invaluable in showing how improving cultural competence can be a worthwhile investment of time, money and people’s energy.

I greatly appreciate the invitation to join the group to be part of the beginning of this grand undertaking. I look forward to watching as the program moves along its path, and intercultural competence spreads among the staff and organization. I am confident my friend’s plan is going to be hugely successful and wish him and the organization the best of luck!

Bananas!!! Training Activity and Nourishment

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Click on the audio player above to listen to the “Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte as you read this post.

“Vitamin A deficiency is probably the third largest public health problem in the world,” according to James Dale, Director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. “Somewhere between 600,000 and two million children die every year of Vitamin A deficiency, and another million or so go permanently blind. We’ve relied on supplements for a long time to fight malnutrition,” but supplements can be expensive, and many people don’t want to take them.

Stephen Buah, a researcher at the same institution, chimes in, “Ugandans consume about 1.5 kilograms of banana a day, so we’re talking about 400 to 600 kilograms a year. A recent health survey has actually shown that up to 30% of children in Uganda are Vitamin A deficient, and a similar figure goes for women who are pregnant.”

Enter a new project to bio-fortify the East African Highland cooking banana, a staple in the Ugandan diet. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, so the idea is to increase the naturally occurring beta-carotene in the banana through bio-fortification, using a Papua New Guinean banana. The project has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2005, and the “super-bananas” have just been cleared to begin human trials in the USA.

You may firmly believe that GMO foods are not the answer to world nutritional deficits, or you may applaud this effort. Either way, the project involves cultural twists and ramifications, as such projects always do. This is the interesting part for a Cultural Detective.

Beta-carotene-heavy "super banana" is very orange

Beta-carotene-heavy “super banana” is very orange

Our challenge is that the beta-carotene-heavy “super banana” is bright orange inside. This could prove an impediment to Ugandans and others adopting it into their diets and using it in their traditional dishes. Here are some thoughts from a recent article in Scientific American:

“…bananas are more than just a food staple in Uganda; they are part of the cultural fabric. The Ugandan word for food is actually the same as the word for a traditional meal made of the stewed banana: matooke. Physical attributes of the fruit itself are particularly important to Ugandans, so altering the fruit could have social consequences. For example, when matooke is prepared properly, it obtains a certain yellow color. If you are a woman who prepares matooke of the incorrect color or texture for your husband, you can be beaten.”

“Furthermore, when we asked what trait farmers would like to see most improved about their crops, they consistently selected nearly every other trait before nutrition.”
—Matthew Schnurr, Dalhousie University, Canada

There are many challenges to making sure everyone gets enough nourishment; cross-cultural understanding and communication are one of them. We applaud those who are taking on these challenges and building bridges to enhance access to healthy food and clean water.

Speaking of bananas, I heard about an activity recently that I think might be helpful to you. If anyone knows the original source of the activity, would you please share it with me, for citation here? Thank you. The instructions and debriefing below are my own, based on the idea of exploring how people peel bananas.

bananaActivity: The Banana Peel

Objectives:
Learners will discover that:
  1. Many of us go through life believing that “our way” is “the way” to do something. We often fail to investigate—or even notice—if there are other approaches to performing a task (such as peeling a banana).
  2. “Common sense” (e.g., how to peel a banana) is really “cultural sense,” common only to those who share the same learned patterns of behavior.
  3. “My way” is not the only “right way” and, in fact, may not be the “best way” for the purpose.
  4. Having alternatives, diversity, and knowing more than one way to do something are assets.

Procedure:
This is a terrific activity to conduct prior to a break, or mid-afternoon when learners may be hungry. After making sure your learners have no banana allergies or other restrictions, give each of them a banana.

Ask your learners to peel their bananas and hold onto the peels. Let them know they are welcome to eat the bananas, as well.

That’s it—quick and simple! Remember, the key to experiential learning is the meaning-making that takes place during the debriefing.

Debrief:
The debriefing is the most important part of any learning activity. It is where sense is made of the experience.

  1. Ask learners how they peeled their bananas. Have a few people share.
  2. Ask learners how they learned how to peel a banana. Who taught them? When? Where? Explain to them that this is how culture is learned. Culture is our “common sense,” the template (learned behavior, habits) for how we make decisions and interact with the world.
  3. Ask learners if everyone in the group peeled their bananas in the same way. Encourage learners to look around and discuss. Usually there will be, at minimum, two different ways learners peel their bananas, particularly if you have an international or multi-ethnic group. Many people peel from the stem end, but others peel from the “top,” as illustrated in the video below.
  4. Ask learners if they realized that others were peeling their bananas differently than they were. If they did not, why not? What “blinded” them to seeing the difference? What assumptions did they make?
  5. Ask learners if they think their way of peeling a banana is better than another way. You can ask a couple of learners to speak to this, even setting up a debate if appropriate for your context. You can even make a list of pros and cons of the different methods of peeling. Be sure to note that people tend to be perfectly happy with the way in which they are used to peeling a banana. It’s the same with culture. We think “our” way of doing things is the “right” way or, often, the “only” way. Then, we discover there are other ways of doing things.
  6. Summarize main learning points, e.g., that differences provide us alternatives and add interest to life. Rather than feeling threatened by difference or resisting it, asking people to “fit in,” we can learn from differences and choose the best ways for our team, family, or organization. In a sense, we can create a “third culture.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed the activity, as well as the info on the super-banana. If you have a favorite cross-cultural training activity that you use in conjunction with Cultural Detective, please share it! We’ll be happy to credit you and link to your page. Together, we can build intercultural competence, justice, and respect in this world of ours. Thank you for being with us on this journey!

So Proud of Our Customer!

MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_DMicrosoft India has been a Cultural Detective customer for six years, and both Heather Robinson and I are so very proud of the abilities their staff members have developed to in turn coach and develop their support engineers’ customer service skills. The entire project has been amazing—truly a privilege to be a part of it! I’d like to take this opportunity to share a bit of their “Cultural Effective” story with you.

Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their large enterprise customer support representatives. In the first six months using the tool, they told us they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction to Cultural Detective! Now, five years later, they know Cultural Detective inside and out, and use the CD Method when interacting with both international and domestic customers.

In March of this year Heather again traveled to Bangalore to work with the trainers, to help improve their abilities to coach using Cultural Detective. The approach she used is what we call EPIC: Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence. It is a combination of Cultural Detective, with which Microsoft has been working for five years, and Personal Leadership, which their staff have been working with for the past year or so.

The design was an inspired one. Because Microsoft has experienced facilitators who are also well-versed in Cultural Detective, Heather used these facilitators to get team newcomers up to speed, as well as to facilitate small group breakout sessions. This internal group of facilitators put together the readings, sample interviews and assignments for the three-day training. As is so wonderful when training in India, there were plenty of games, activities and laughter.

As you might imagine, one of the main challenges for the support engineers is knowing how to respond to customers’ emotions. Large enterprises rely on Microsoft products to function in highly customized ways, which often means long days of problem-solving discussions, heightened emotions and frayed nerves. The March training included the learners acting out skits of engineer-customer interactions, videotaping them, and then using the Cultural Detective Worksheet to debrief the contrasting values, and the EPIC approach to discern how to respond most appropriately. We would love to share one or two of those videos with you here, but, of course, they are proprietary.

Instead, let me leave you with a few of the notes scribed in small groups. In case you’re wondering why “Kit Kats” and “Milky Ways,” the participants chose a candy bar and then broke into groups, one of ten techniques you can find in this blog post.

If you or your organization would like to be profiled in an upcoming blog post, we would be happy to talk with you about making that happen. Just let us know. Congratulations to all the Microsoft staff, who are so committed to building intercultural competence in their organization, and to you, the Cultural Detective community, for your efforts on this same journey.

Cultural Detective as a Facilitator’s Magic Tool

IMG_6335Guest blog post by Tatyana Fertelmeyster, co-author of Cultural Detective Russia,
connecting.differences@gmail.com

First of all a disclaimer: I have a long-lasting love affair with Cultural Detective and see it as the favorite tool in my toolbox, good for almost anything where training or coaching is concerned. It does not mean that I try to squeeze it into every design or set of handouts I do, but it is a go-to resource. In this short post I’d like to invite you to consider the Cultural Detective Model as a very powerful mechanism for effective facilitation of any process (training, meeting, academic classroom learning, etc.) that you might be facilitating.

Let’s say you come in all ready and prepared to teach, but for some reason the group is just not following you, no matter where you are trying to lead them. Observe. Observe the group and observe yourself: who is doing and saying what here? Ask yourself my favorite question: assuming they have a reason to respond to my efforts in that strange way—what might that be? Take your next step in accordance with your analysis and not in accordance with your initial brilliant plan that just flew out the window (assuming it had a good reason to fly out the window—what might that be?)

Say you’ve got yourself a difficult participant (you know the kind I am talking about, though yours might look nothing like mine). Take a deep breath and ask yourself: assuming this person’s behavior comes from some place of value, what might that be? To get really good at it, practice on significant others. If you master doing it with teenagers, the whole world will be yours for the taking.

I owe one of my best co-facilitation experiences to Cultural Detective as well. A few years ago Kate Berardo (CD Self-Discovery and CD Bridging Cultures) and I were teaching a class at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) together. It was our first collaboration. As we started preparing for the class we talked about ourselves using the structure of the CD Value Lens: this is what I bring to this project, this is how it can be instrumental, and this is how I can be a pain in the neck for somebody who operates differently. I don’t know too many people whose style as is different from mine as Kate’s is. It could’ve been a huge disaster. Instead we were able to really combine our strengths, which is such a wonderful alternative to drowning in frustration over “how come you are not like me?”

If you want to strengthen your skills as a facilitator, come join me this July in Portland, OR at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication. I will be teaching three workshops incorporating Cultural Detective in various ways:

I hope to see you there!

Using Cultural Detective Online in a College Class

BCCUNYhoriz_PMS288_PMS286A guest blog post by Dr. Elisabeth Gareis (Communication Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York)

With many colleges increasing their online course offerings, there is a great need for training tools that can be used as segments in online classes. Last fall, I was looking for such a tool for my graduate class in International Business Communication. In previous face-to-face renditions of the course, I had used Ecotonos with great success. When I couldn’t find a simulation game for online asynchronous settings, I decided to try the Cultural Detective Online (CDO).

One course assignment involves student groups investigating a country of their choice through readings and interviews, focusing on sub-topics such as oral and written communication, business customs, and business-related news events. In the end, the groups create webpages on their country, complete with narrated slideshows on each sub-topic.

Last fall, I assigned the CDO only for exploratory purposes. Before the students embarked on their adventure, I gave a screencast lecture on training tools, covering differences in type (e.g., simulations versus games), giving examples of specific ones (e.g., Barnga, Ecotonos, Diversophy), and discussing different uses (e.g., training versus coaching). The students had various levels of exposure to intercultural communication: some had overseas experience and others were new to the subject matter. None of them had used a training tool before.

Ellissa Corwin (COM 9656 Fall 2013)
The students all obtained a one-month subscription to explore CDO as an example of a training tool, and, at the same time, to get started on their country research. Their assignment was to view the video tutorials and then to complete the CDO package for their target country (i.e., to explore all sections, including the Lenses, proverbs/sayings, daily life examples, negative perceptions, and all incidents). In the end, they analyzed and discussed the experience. Here are some representative responses:

  • “The interface is easy to use.”
  • “The dashboard is a great way to orient the user at the start of their cultural investigation. It can be very helpful to write out what your aims are when doing research.”
  • “I think the Cultural Detective does a very good job of outlining primary Lenses. I particularly enjoyed the in-depth materials associated with each lens and learning from the interactions. I also appreciated that they include both positive and possibly negative perceptions of each trait.”
  • “I like how the Lenses are organized. I especially like the proverbs and daily-life examples.”
  • “I found it useful to begin learning about my group’s particular country and a good starting point for further research.”
  • “This type of in-the-moment skill-building practice really helps reinforce learning and build user confidence. The Cultural Detective also helped bring our textbook to life and clarify learning.”
  • “I liked the fact that all of the site’s sources are listed. This can really help someone who wants to dive deeper into a particular country.”
  • “Very organized and user friendly!”

Exploring the CDO gave the students insight into the world of intercultural training and coaching, and provided them with quality information on their target country. As it is self-paced, it is easily integrated into asynchronous online college classes.

I am using CDO again this semester, but this time a little differently. In addition to exploring the tool, students’ final presentations will include using their research findings (readings and interviews) to design an activity that is modeled after the incidents in CDO. In other words, each student will contribute an issue from his/her sub-topic to a scenario or dialogue, which will then be analyzed by other classmates. Not only will this better integrate CDO into the course, it will also allow students to directly apply their learning.

Cultural Detective Online is a great tool, and I recommend it highly. Students greatly enjoy their learning via the CDO.

A note from the Cultural Detective Team:

Please contact us if you’d like to learn how to integrate CDO into your classroom experience.

Coming soon—exciting new CDO functionality will allow members of a “group” (e.g., a class or a team) to collaboratively create critical incidents, which can be submitted to the group administrator (professor or team leader) for approval, and then shared with other group members for analysis and discussion.

Have you joined us for a free webinar to see how Cultural Detective Online can be integrated in your academic or business setting? We hold them twice a month—attendance is limited so register now: Cultural Detective Online Webinar