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,

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


Join us in Warm Sun AND Accomplish a New Year’s Resolution


  • Are you tired of the cold, the ice, and the snow? Is it all getting to be too much, and you’d like a break? Are you longing for some warmth, sunshine, the beach, and vibrant Latin music?
  • Have you promised yourself that in 2014 you will spend more time on yourself, invest in your professional development, network with like-minded professionals, or expand your training/facilitation/coaching repertoire?
  • Do you realize that global and multicultural competence are requisites in today’s world, and you want to improve these vital skills and learn to help develop them in others?

You can accomplish all these things by joining us in Mazatlán Mexico in February, or in Atlanta Georgia in March for our Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop! Early bird registration rates are available, so now is a good time to secure your seat in one of these workshops.

The Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop receives high accolades from the most experienced interculturalists as well as from those with significant life experience but who are new to the intercultural field. Clients rave about the Cultural Detective Method and use it worldwide. Facilitators love having Cultural Detective in their toolkit. It helps them truly make a difference and secure repeat business from clients—ongoing coaching, training and consulting revenue—as clients commit to the continuing practice that developing true intercultural competence requires.

Many people do not realize that Cultural Detective is flexible enough to integrate nicely with existing training programs—adding depth and practical skills that learners can use immediately and build upon in the future. Participants easily remember the Cultural Detective Method, and can put it into practice when encountering a challenging situation—solving misunderstandings before they become problems!

“It is difficult to exaggerate how fundamentally important Cultural Detective has become for us. The difference between courses we conduct with and without CD is astounding.”
– Chief Academic Officer

“We have achieved, for the first time in my five years working on the Learning and Development team, a 100% satisfaction rating from our learners. Thank you, Cultural Detective!
– Chief Learning and Development Officer

“Our customer satisfaction rates have increased 30% thanks to Cultural Detective.”
– Customer Support Manager

Click here for details on dates, locations and pricing, and click here for a detailed agenda of the workshop. Sound tempting? Get out of the cold AND spend time developing your effectiveness and employability! We’d be delighted to have you join us! Of course, if you are living somewhere warm, we’d gladly welcome you, too!

New Year’s Gift: Oldie but Goodie—The STADIApproach

Permission is granted to use this model freely and to circulate it, PROVIDED the © and url are maintained.

Permission is granted to use this model freely and to circulate it, PROVIDED the © and url are maintained.

It is said that experience is the best teacher. But learning does not lie in the experience itself; rather, it is our interpretation of the situation—the meaning we give to our experience—that provides our learning.

How might we better enable learners to constructively give meaning to their intercultural experiences? Are you looking for an easy and highly effective way to structure your next intercultural workshop or coaching session? Are you wondering how you might better enable study-abroad students to understand their experience in a way that builds cross-cultural competence? Do you have employees working internationally or multiculturally, and you’d like them to learn to truly harness the potential of diversity?

This “oldie but goodie,” the STADIApproach to Intercultural Learning, has been used in dozens of organizations worldwide with huge success. Click on the link to view a full article on the approach. I first published it for use with my proprietary clients in 1989; it is now even more useful as it can provide a design framework for blended learning approaches that leverage Cultural Detective Online. The CD Online system has STADI embedded into its core. In the hands of a skilled facilitator, teacher or coach, you can assist your learners to Sense, Think, Apply, Do and Integrate by analyzing the experience of others via the critical incidents in CD Online, as well as probing their own real life experiences.

We trust you’ll find the STADIApproach article helpful! Please accept it and use it as my new year’s gift to you, this January of 2014. It is my wish that the new year will enable all of you, dear readers, to better facilitate intercultural understanding, sustainability, respect and equity on this planet of ours.

Please share your experiences with us, and your designs that effectively leverage Cultural Detective Online to supplement your training, teaching or coaching endeavors.


10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups

saltyspicysweetsourAs educators and trainers, we often find ourselves needing to sort class members into small groups for an activity. Tried-and-true ways include having participants “number off” or color-coding their name tags. But even the ways in which we divide our students or trainees into small groups can contribute to learning and enjoyment: it can ground learners in the topic at hand, reinforce key points, provide insight into ourselves and others, and help develop teamwork.

In short, the way we divide into groups can become a subtle yet powerful element of spiral learning. For those of us who teach intercultural communication or diversity and inclusion, it can be helpful to divide into groups in ways that encourage learning about similarities and differences.

In that spirit, here are ten of my favorite “Quick Tips” for dividing a large group into small groups. Whether you want to explicitly debrief the learning or leave it as-is depends on your purposes. As with any activity, it needs to suit your style and that of your students, and be appropriate for the environment.

1. Salty/Spicy/Sweet/Sour
Using food is always fun and low stress for the participants. As individuals we like different tastes, and there are cultural tendencies as well. For me, the “sour” tastes of pickled food unite my German blood and my life experience in Japan, for example.
  • Instructions: Make a small sign with a flavor or taste, using as many flavors as you need groups. Then, ask class members to go to their favorite flavor.
  • Variations: Alternatively you could divide the group by having participants choose their favorite fruit or choose their favorite dish from among several common dishes. Or, try having a real snack at each location, and just see where people gravitate. Depending on the context, this could be a good time to use international and ethnic snack foods.
  • If you want to Debrief: Once you have the small groups, you can ask people to take a look around. Do they see themes in the groupings? Any cultural tendencies? Or, do they see reinforcement that we all have our individual taste preferences? Each time will be different. Ask people to reflect on why they like the taste they chose. What life experiences taught them to value that taste? Might this enhance their cultural self-awareness?
2. Goodies Sort
Again using food, this is one of my favorite methods, and one very popular with students or trainees! In the context of teaching or training, a treat is a good pick-me-up, and it’s easy to “internationalize” or add something new and different given the variety of food.
  • Instructions: Prepare “goodies” (chocolates, candies, pretzels, cheese sticks; I’ve even used dried squid and roasted grasshoppers) in as many varieties as you want groups. Put one item for each of your class members in a basket, and pass the basket. Then ask “pretzel people” to meet over here, “cheese people” over there, etc.
  • Variations: You can also use multicultural snacks! Another simple variation is to use the same kind of candy but in different colors: all the reds meet over here, the blues over there, etc. If you have a group that genuinely embraces informality, have them suck their candy, then stick out their tongues to find their fellow group members.
  • If you want to Debrief: Which snacks attracted you and why? Are your food preferences influenced by your ethnic and cultural heritage? Which rules your snack preference: personality or culture? Did any of the snacks look very unappetizing? If so, why? Perhaps make the point that just as our snack preferences vary according to whom we’re with and how we’re feeling (whether we’re tired, excited), our behavior in multicultural teams depends on the context, too.
3. Pertinent Quotes
Quotations have become quite popular on social media sites, and they are a powerful way to introduce a new topic or to summarize learning. Since this activity involves a bit of walking around, it gets people up and moving as well. It’s one of my favorite ways to get people into pairs.
  • Instructions: Assemble a set of quotations on the topic you are teaching. Choose half as many quotes as you have participants. Type up the quotes, dividing them in the middle: choose a fairly obvious place for breaking the quotation in half. Print them, cut them apart, fold them up, and have participants each choose one out of a basket. Then, ask them to find the person with the other half of their quote.
  • Variations: You can combine this method with the “Goodie Share” by taping the half-quote onto the bottom of a candy or snack, then asking participants to find their partners.
  • If you want to Debrief: To aid in this process, you could post a list of complete quotes on a flip chart. You can have some/each of the couples read their quotes aloud to the class. You might ask participants to speak to how “their” quotes relate to what they want to get out of your class today.
4. In • ter • cul • tur • al
This one’s a simple, quick, and easy way to divide participants into groups using a word that reinforces the theme, topic or key skill of the day’s learning session.
  • Instructions: Choose a word that represents an aspect of the theme you are teaching. That word should have the same number of syllables as the number of small groups you want. Instead of numbering off, have class members recite the word’s syllables. It’s a good way to reinforce key concepts.
  • Variations: You could say the word in another language, thus teaching a bit of a destination language, for example.
  • If you want to Debrief: Really not necessary, but… You could ask participants about different ways of hyphenating words, dividing syllables, in the languages they speak.
5. Playing Cards
This is another very quick way to divide participants into small groups: it can have a cultural component, yet it doesn’t necessarily need to be debriefed. With a unique deck of cards, it can be even more interesting.
  • Instructions: From a deck of playing cards, choose one card for each person in your class. Make sure you have “sets” of cards, one set for each group you want. Put all the cards from the abridged deck facedown on a table, and have participants each choose a card. Then group people as you’ve planned, by number (all 2s, 3s, etc.), or by suit, color, odds/evens, higher/lower than 8, etc.
  • Variations: Use Mexican Lotería cards, Japanese Hanafuda cards, mahjong playing cards, or another culturally appropriate (or new-to-your-participants) card deck to divide your class.
  • If you want to Debrief: Ask if everyone felt comfortable with your instructions. Were they familiar with the words you used (suit, Ace, etc.)? People who play cards have a culture unfamiliar to non-card players: shared “common sense,” vocabulary, customs. Some people associate card playing with gambling, and thus don’t like, or feel religiously forbidden from, playing. As with any educational activity, make sure this one will be comfortable for your learners.
6. What You’re Wearing 
I have learned so much from this simple activity over the years because participants always see something I hadn’t noticed. It can also serve as a wonderful impetus for reflecting on value differences.
  • Instructions: Have class members get into groups of 3 or 4, whatever you choose, based on similarities in what they are wearing. They decide what they have in common.
  • Variations: An alternative is to have learners group according to shoe type. This can be very fun, too, and it’s sometimes surprising the categories people come up with.
  • If you want to Debrief: If you choose to debrief this group-sorting activity, you may find a myriad of perceptions about clothing and shoe styles. Often people group into categories that they themselves might not have thought of on their own. Ask participants to discuss in their small groups how they decided to group themselves. Were they all focused on the same thing, or did they have different understandings of their clothing commonality? Groups can share with one another how they grouped, and compare similarities and differences. Did anyone share a perception of someone else’s clothing that surprised you? That echoed or differed from your own perception? What can this tell us about values and perceptions?
7. Number of Languages You Speak, Countries in Which You’ve Lived
This method also helps everyone learn a bit about each other quickly, that they might not have otherwise known.
  • Instructions: Have people line up according to the number of languages they speak, or the number of countries in which they’ve lived, and then divide them into groups.
  • Variations: Tell participants to assemble in groups of people who speak 1, 2, and someone who speaks 3 (or more) languages. This gives a bit more diversity in each small group. You can do the same thing with the number of countries in which participants have lived.
  • If you want to Debrief: Ask participants if they are surprised at who is in their group—have they learned something new about one or more of their colleagues? Does this change their perception of the other person? How and why? Does this change their perception of themselves? How and why?
8. Animal Sounds or Industry Vocabulary Across Languages
I have always been fascinated by the different sounds that animals make as represented in different languages. Really, in Japanese, mice say “chu”?! Use this interesting trivia to your advantage, and insert a bit of lightheartedness to your session.
  • Instructions: Print cards with an image of an animal and the sound that animal makes in a different language. Then ask people to make the sound on their card in order to find each other. You will need one card for each participant, and the number of animals you use should correspond to the number of groups you want to form.
  • If you want to Debrief: Explain that animal sounds are lighthearted, then shift to the inextricable connection between linguistic and cultural fluency. Ask participants to share with you differences they’ve noticed across languages, words that sound similar but mean different things in different places, or how much vocabulary, even in the same language, varies place-to-place. You could ask participants share other interesting sounds animals make in languages they speak.
  • Variations: You can use the same animal and have participants divide into groups according to the sound it makes in Spanish vs. German vs. Chinese, etc. You could use different animals and the sound they make in a destination language. Alternatively, you could use industry-specific vocabulary in different languages, or words having to do with the subject of your workshop in various languages.
9. Arm Cross/Hand Cross
This is a very easy way to divide the room into two groups, and to illustrate how something that looks similar can really be quite different once you analyze it a bit more.
  • Instructions: Ask your students to cross their arms over their chests. Those people with their left arms on top form one group, and those with their right arms on top form the other.
  • Variations: Asking participants to clasp their hands or cross their legs works just as well.
  • If you want to Debrief: We all have automatic habits that we don’t pay much attention to, things we do without making a conscious choice—like the way we cross our arms, or how we attempt to persuade someone, or apologize or disagree. Another  point you might debrief: ask whether, at first glance, with arms crossed, they all seemed to be doing the same thing? It wasn’t until you called attention to the subtle differences in how people were crossing their arms that they noticed. And so it can be with culture.
10. The Name Game
Many cultures around the world have a variety of traditions around naming their children: a girl may be called “daughter of __,” sons may be named according to birth order, a child may be named after an ancestor, or given a name that indicates a hope the parents have for the child (beauty, peace, etc.). Many people are very, very proud of their names, and others may have no idea how they were named or why. Some may have changed their name or had their names changed for them.
  • Instructions: Ask your students to think about their name, and a short (30 second) story about how they got the name, what their name means, how their name or nickname has varied over the years. Then tell students to walk around sharing their “name stories” with one another, until they find someone with a name story similar to theirs in some way. Participants can form pairs, groups of 3, 4, or 5—whatever is helpful.
  • Variations: An alternative of course is to find partners with very different name stories.
  • If you want to Debrief: This is a wonderful activity through which you can talk about value differences, or strategies for adapting to a new culture (do you change your name, adapt its pronunciation…).

Hey, all you trainers and teachers out there: What’s your favorite way to divide a large group into small groups for activities? Please share your creative approaches and recommendations!

Some Cultural Detective Training and Coaching Activities

Exploring how we value our own and each other’s cultural values–another step in CD sleuthing.

All too often we trainers are apportioned a less than useful amount of time for impacting the attitudes of our trainees. This affects our use of Cultural Detective as well as many other tools that we may choose or not choose to use under the pressure of diminished schedules.

When using Cultural Detective, I find it ever more important to differentiate what we do with the Values Lenses and the indigenous discourse that lies behind them from a lot of other intercultural training approaches that focus on dimensions and increasingly lead to stereotyping. When we speak about the values in Cultural Detective, it is important to remember that these have been developed through and by the inner language and feelings of the very members of those cultures that the instruments represent.

Nonetheless, when speaking of values, it is becoming increasingly common for us to have individual participants who question them, who do not identify with them, or who even dismiss them as stereotypes. Given that the best way of dealing with resistance in a pedagogical context (as well as many other contexts) may be to flow with it and direct its energies, I have developed a few approaches that I feel may help us in these somewhat challenging situations. I’ve described them as they might be used in a teaching or training context, but they may be adapted to individual and team coaching situations as well.

First, wherever possible, I use Cultural Detective: Self-Discovery, or at least an exercise or two from it, so that participants can at least claim some inheritance of cultural values and identify them as their own. This legitimizes the discussion of culture where it might be resisted. It usually overcomes or at least mitigates the participant’s temptation to see him or herself as acultural and the tendency to vaunt oneself as a global citizen, uncontaminated by inherited culture. This is not to deny, but to affirm the fact that TCKs and others like them may be digesting a smorgasbord of cultural influences as well as generating certain cultural features pertinent to their common experiences (explored in Cultural Detective: Blended Culture and CD Generational Harmony). Often elements of cultural identity are denied because they have caused pain in growing up and finding social inclusion. Once culture is legitimated as a topic of discussion and a relevant problematic for the individual being coached or the group being trained, other things become possible.

Here are some approaches that we use when one culture is trying to learn about another specific culture, as for example, when working with teams resulting from mergers and foreign acquisitions and installations. In such cases cultural conflicts and misunderstandings are often the elephant in the room, potentially touchy subjects. While Cultural Detective may be the ideal tool for pursuing understanding on both sides, it is not always a given that participants will spontaneously identify with the values of their own culture as they are presented in the Cultural Detective materials.

So, let’s say, for example, that we are dealing with German and US cultures, either in an organizational relationship or collaborative team. Daimler-Chrysler has already demonstrated that even a good bit of upfront diversity work and intercultural instruction may not be adequate to deal with our own deeply rooted values and our perceptions of others unless they are continually identified and addressed. Thus the Cultural Detective process must be mastered and practiced and in many cases facilitation must be applied on an ongoing basis until a functional collaborative culture is established. This can take quite a while.

Facing the possibility of denial of difference as well as the possibility of participants rejecting their own or the others’ cultural Values Lens as stereotypical or just plain wrong, here are a few strategies that I’ve found to be successful. Perhaps some of you have already discovered these on your own. If so, I would be interested in hearing your versions.

  1. Evaluating the strength of the discourse and the value that sums it up. I ask participants to study their own culture’s Lens and then rate on a scale of 0 to 5, weak to strong, their own sense of how they’ve personally appropriated and express in everyday words and actions each of the values described. Then I ask them to share this with their compatriots as well as with the representatives of the other culture who are participating with them. This is a matter of not only sharing their numerical rating of the values, but talking about how each cultural value expresses itself in their thinking and behavior, as well as what parts of it don’t seem to fit or which they don’t like to identify with. This may or may not resemble or relate to the “Negative Perceptions” found on the Lens itself.
  2. Identifying commonalities: Following this discussion, I ask the individuals of each culture to study the other culture’s Lens and to do two things. First, again on a scale of 0 to 5 to assess whether, and if so, the degree to which they identify with each of the cultural values of the other group as found on the lens. Then, secondly, and this is extremely important, to identify and jot down the keywords of their own inner conversation or discourse about the importance they accord to the values they seem to share and the ways in which they may practice each of them.  Thirdly, depending on the size of the group, ask them to share their results either individually, or to conduct a discussion within their same culture group and then have the groups report out their results to each other. Here is where the essential value is gained from seeing how people would express their appropriation of elements belonging to the other culture.
  3. How do we like to be treated? Given adequate time, here is another very valuable activity that could occur at this point, but might be even better to use after the group has resolved a critical incident or two. Ask each separate culture as a group to meet together to discuss and identify and list both the attitudes and kinds of treatment that they appreciate coming from the other culture, as well as those kinds of speech and behavior that they may find uncomfortable or even damaging to the collaborative and social relationship they are trying to create with each other. The previous activities at various points are likely to lead toward the identification and discussion of stereotypes, giving rise to another possibly useful activity. I have found that frequently trainers and teachers, perhaps out of a misguided sense of political correctness avoid the discussion of specific stereotypes or stereotypical expressions, missing a valuable learning opportunity.
  4. Investigating stereotypes: We’ve long accepted the fact that stereotypes contain a kernel of truth, but that the perspective with which they are expressed maybe overgeneralized and conducive to negative judgment. So, instead of dismissing stereotypes out of hand, we can use them as starting points for deeper discussion and further understanding. So, when stereotypes surface, I ask participants to discuss questions like the following ones:
    • What is the truth in them, however small? What do you think brought them about in the first place? What perpetuates them? What insights or cautions do they deliver to us? What is the discourse that we carry about self that makes them true for us when they are about us?
    • What exaggeration do they contain? What is the discourse that makes them noxious, conflictual, etc.? When are they likely to be painful or damaging? What limits do they place on our knowledge and our inquiry about others?

So, as I mentioned above these are some of the useful practices that I keep in my tool bag for enhancing the effectiveness of Cultural Detective.  It would be good to hear what others of you have developed or ways in which you view similar activities.

Fortune 500 Client Prepares to Support Global Clients

“We have achieved, for the first time in my five years working on the Learning and Development team, a 100% satisfaction rating from our learners. This is quite an achievement, considering that learners spent 12 hours over three days in the classroom. They typically are resistant to being in the classroom for more than two hours at any given time!”

Such feedback from one of our Fortune 500 Learning & Development Managers is so wonderful to hear and just as powerful is what led to these results — it is a great story to repeat. Take a read!

“Our initial plan was to offer strict localization training that would concentrate on such basic details about Australia as spelling, unique business terminology, time zones, and the fact that they use the metric system. We also planned to train basic Australian etiquette: the do’s and don’ts.

In my search for training that we could purchase and customize to our specific needs, I came across Cultural Detective and discovered that we could, using your materials and methodology, offer our learners much more than the basics. In fact, what I found in Cultural Detective was an approach to cross-cultural communication that would leverage and greatly enhance the communication skills that our team already puts to use every day to achieve shared understanding with our U.S. business-to-business customers.

Clearly, Cultural Detective was a natural fit for us—a fact that was driven home when I attended the FOLE (facilitated online learning event) sessions and saw a great example of how the training could be delivered online (something I very much appreciated, since most all of our training will be virtual by next year!). The FOLE sessions put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me and gave me plenty of ideas for conducting the training in a fun and engaging way.

After attending the FOLE sessions, I worked closely with an Australian SME who works on our Customer Services team. His willingness and enthusiasm to share his culture made adapting Cultural Detective to our purposes a real joy. As your methodology strongly suggests, having someone who grew up in the culture directly participate in the development process helped breathed life into the content, and it also added a level of credibility to the training that made it even more engaging and effective.

But what really made the Australian training effective was the fact that we prefaced it with your Self-Discovery course. Learners who may have been a bit skeptical about having to take part in a course on “culture,” when they typically receive “nuts-and-bolts” training on how to meet their customers’ technical and marketing needs, were plainly won over to the idea, at times in moving ways. Members of our team whom I have known and trained for a number of years, and who rarely participate in the classroom, shared powerful childhood stories that demonstrated their ability to connect the personal and the cultural in deep and meaningful ways.

The Self-Discovery course cleared the way for us to dig into the Australian Cultural Detective course and make what in some cases were startling discoveries. One such discovery emerged when my Australian SME, who was in the training session (not only because he is my SME, but because he will be part of this new Australian program), shared his cultural core values with the rest of the group, all of whom are native-born Americans. His values were not only quite different from the rest of the group, but they meshed perfectly with the Australian core values, once I revealed that lens to everyone. The impact on the class, including on my SME, was clear and immediate: they were startled by concrete evidence of fundamental cultural differences.

Because of this discovery, as well as their very personal engagement with their own cultural makeup, learners were able to engage with the Critical Incidents deeply, perceptively, and energetically. We were able to pull out and analyze many “clues” from the incidents, while having a lot of fun doing so!

The other discovery came when I was working with another trainer on my team whose focus was on our new client company’s marketing strategy and how it evolved over many years in Australia. When he shared his extensive research on that strategy, it was immediately clear that the Australian core values I was covering were at the heart of our client’s branding. Based on that finding, we were able to weave our courses together into a powerful and cohesive curriculum.

To ensure that the lessons learned in the classroom stick and continue to grow, our coaching team (who participated in both beta sessions and live training) are now making connections back to the Cultural Detective method, concepts, and terminology as they guide learners through the initial relationship-building process with our customers. And the anecdotal evidence of the overwhelming effectiveness of this coaching is pouring in already.

I have received kudos from my managers and the Vice President of Services for having chosen and successfully delivered the Cultural Detective training. But the kudos should really go to you and your company, Kris. Cultural Detective is a rock solid methodology.

Thanks again for all your help making this training possible. When we take our next step into the global market, we know who we will turn to for training solutions.”

When you take your next step into the global marketplace, who will you turn to?

More Than A Cross-Cultural Development Tool

As many of you may know, the Cultural Detective Team periodically facilitates online learning events which have been designed to help new users learn or seasoned users refresh their skills around working with the Cultural Detective Method and Values Lenses.

I recently had a follow-up conversation with one of our new users, whose organization is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia. Because I often co-facilitate the online learning events, I always find it enlightening to speak with some of our new CD users and online participants to get their perspective and gauge our facilitation success by their understanding of how to work with the CD Method. It really energized me to hear this particular client’s feedback so I wanted to share!

He said he was really excited by the multiple ways he realized his organization could use the CD Method for growth, in addition to his initial hope of using it to aid global expansion. Needless to say, as he continued to clarify his meaning: by discussing how CD is really an excellent business communications tool that can be incorporated into ongoing associate training regardless of cross-cultural work, and that CD provides a superb process for coaching as well — by the end of our call I was really grinning !

It always feels good when the messages we are trying to send make it effectively across the virtual training waves, but when they are taken to another level and creatively applied to the organizational needs, the time we spend educating is worth it’s weight in gold!