Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (Scoop.it, Paper.li, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. Vekantiebabbels.nl: voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Share With Us Your 6 Second Videos on Crossing Cultures!

VineCDI used to really dislike Twitter — one more social media, and such short messages! We don’t need more information overload in our world, bothering us everywhere we go!

Then I reframed Twitter in my mind. I realized that those tweets (140 characters maximum) are like haiku! Their brevity encourages us to capture the core essence, the deep meaning, in a new and creative way! In that sense, Tweets are perfect for Cultural Detectives or anyone who bridges cultures, whether within the family, neighborhood, or internationally. Now I quite enjoy the medium.

Recently I learned that you can now stream video via Twitter in much the same way as you share photos via Instagram.

You download a free app called Vine, then use your iPhone, iPod or iPad to record and Tweet 6-second videos. You can also easily post the photos to Facebook. Want to see some samples? Looping videos, short and sweet: multimedia haiku.

So I thought this could be an enjoyable and useful activity for Cultural Detectives: sharing short videos with each other about crossing cultures, from wherever we happen to be based or traveling. Here is the proposal:

I have a fun and exciting challenge for you! Please, capture a short video of your experience crossing cultures: what does bridging cultures effectively, what does cross-cultural competence mean to you?

Then, Tweet it to us at @CulturalDetect using hashtag #XingCultures

And/or, post your video to our Facebook page

I’m sure this could be a whole lot of fun, and provide interesting material that many of you could use. We have followers all over the world, and if you participate and pass this on to your friends and followers, the reach will be even wider.

Looking forward to your insight and creativity!!!!

Culture’s Dynamic… What Are You Listening? (#2 in a series)

Dilemma

Dr. George Simons has long been researching the stories that make us who we are. In this series of blog posts he will be leading us in an examination of critical challenges that can lead us toward a fresh vision of culture. We will explore how we come to terms with our inner and shared identities and learn about how we construct the realities that shape our now and our future world.

If how we talk about culture, as I mentioned in the last post, appears too static, it is not because culture itself is static. Its dynamism penetrates every corner of life. Why this paradox? Why? We need to look at culture not as an idea, but in action.

I can’t tell how many of you are having conversations with your partner, children, dog, or friends at the moment you are looking at this blog, but what I am sure of is that, even if you’re not talking to anybody, you are talking a mile a minute. Research suggests that even in a face-to-face conversation, people are speaking to themselves about eight times as fast as they talk to each other. In a tele-conversation you can mute the microphone but not your mind. This means that, even if you’re not talking to any friends, pets, or other things in your ambience at the moment, you’re talking to yourself—unless of course you’ve fallen asleep and may be dreaming. Sometimes we are totally with these inner conversations—we call it “daydreaming.”

Screen Shot 2013-02-09 at 10.28.47 AMTalking and listening
This is to say, with your inner chatter you’re asking yourself, “What’s this all about?” “What’s he saying?” “Is this useful to me?” “Do I understand this, or this, or this?” Your mind is proposing all kinds of things about what’s going on around and in you, “What am I hearing?” “What am I doing?” “What am I feeling?” Trying to make what we are sensing fit in with what we know. There are even those little conversations we mislabel as distractions, “What’ll I do tomorrow or this afternoon or have for lunch?” We’re always talking to ourselves. We can’t help it. It’s the way we are. Some of us may have learned to meditate to slow down or to quiet our inner voices at times, but they keep chattering on most of the time, whether you pay attention to them or not. What are you talking to yourself about at this moment?

What is this inner flow all about? It is what we call “listening.” I know that sounds crazy because we’ve all probably been taught that to listen, we should shut up, stop thinking and hear the other out. Well, you can’t do that very well. What really happens is that the mind is forever proposing theories about: What’s going on here? What am I reading, hearing? Do I have a second opinion? What should I do? Is this good bad, beautiful or ugly, worth my time? Should I go do something else? And so on and so forth.

Listening is that voice—I’m describing it simply as a voice, but the flow of listening contains pictures, imaginative scenarios and feelings of all kinds that come up in reaction to what’s going on around you and in you. Actively listening means engaging with these conversations, deciding which are focal, which should take priority, which ones we wish to avoid, pursue, take action on.

This is culture!
The conversations, the discourse that you listen to is what we call “culture.” In other words we have inherited, built, built upon, and shared such discourse all of our lives. Today I’m inviting you to take a look at it in this new and different way.  Listening is culture speaking.  It is at once process and content. We have inner conversations, discourses about all kinds of things, about our goals, about the people we are, whether we’re how we should be or not. We have basic discourses about such things as: What’s a man? What’s a woman? How to live out my masculinity, my femininity? We have discourses that come from where we are born, the gangs we hang out with, and discourses that prevail at a certain point in my generation, in your generation.

That discourse not only originates from outside of us, but also springs up from within, as our unconscious mind brings these strains together. With old conversations rubbing up against the new, sometimes helpful, sometimes contradictory, we are ever awash with fresh ideas in the wired, or should we start saying, “wireless” world that we live in.

A torrent of discourse
So today the culture that builds our inner listening is a flow of discourse coming from countless sources; we live in worlds that are continually shaped by these flows of discourse within us and around us. They are continually flowing over us and into us, following old channels and carving new paths. What was once a slower moving stream of discourse has now become a torrent with the explosive growth of social media and facile, inexpensive means of communication. It sometime seems that everyone is wired, everywhere, or, again replacing the aging terminology, it seems that “everyone is wireless everywhere!”

When I was a student at Notre Dame graduate school, I kept a notebook in my dorm room where I jotted down what I needed to research at the library. Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon I trekked across campus toward the arms of “Touchdown Jesus,” the mosaic mural that welcomed scholars to the Hesburgh Library, to satisfy my learning needs and humor my serendipity. Today I can Google and Wiki most information quicker than I can stand up and walk over to the bookcase where I know the exact book that holds my answers. In terms of sheer quantity, I suspect that, now as a septuagenarian, I am learning a hundred times more each day than I did as a collegian. Shivering in the wee hours of the winter morning, I Skype with heat-oppressed colleagues in Australia or friends in Indonesia without thinking it magic. Yesterday I bought a USB flash drive about the size of the first joint of my index finger, but large enough, I am told, to hold 32 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica I once owned. Go figure!

On the sociopolitical level, we see new media: Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, support the Occupy protests, the Arab Spring, and provide a conduit for wikileaks, all calling into question the way the culture of power is structured and exercised. Battlefields are managed from half a world away. On the commercial level we may feel helpless in the face of mind-bending electronic advertising, victims of strangers who can know everything about us, not just where but how we live, but our likes and dislikes, as well as the GPS coordinates of our smart phones at any given moment. Ought we call in the exorcist or take a digital sabbatical when our inner voices start to babble?

Dynamic culture
There is no end in sight. On one hand our identity seems diluted in the flow of discourse, sound bites and memes, while on the other hand we have powerful means to connect and coordinate our values and our actions to shape both the world we have inherited and this emergent electronic global village we now live in. Given this, we need a truly dynamic discourse about culture, not just a static definition that puts labels on what people have in common and do in similar ways, but one that enlightens us on the ways we share and influence, as well as misunderstand each other.

Please share some reflections on how you see your identity in this new context. What is changing? What is not? How are you and those about you connected, supported, or threatened by the discourse you share? What do you listen? What are the inner voices saying? What is culture telling you?

This post originally appeared in the blog of the Center for Intercultural New Media Research and is provided with the assistance of its editor Anastacia Kurylo.