“THE best simulation for cross-cultural teaming”

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You may have heard of Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Culturesyou know it’s very well regarded and people highly recommend it. But do you know how it works and why it might be useful to you?

Ecotonos is for people engaged in intercultural affairs—both those who have not had significant experience collaborating in a multicultural context and also for those who wish to analyze and further develop their abilities. Ecotonos can be used with both domestic and international multicultural groups to help participants develop skills and strategies for participating effectively in multicultural environments—for sharing information, making decisions, managing projects, building community, working in and leading teams, resolving conflict, and creating solutions.

Designed to be used with between eight and fifty participants, Ecotonos requires at least ninety minutes to conduct: forty-five minutes for the simulation itself, and another 45 for the debriefing. While this is longer than some simulations, it is an investment well worth making. Rather than just experiencing cultural differences, Ecotonos helps participants learn to observe how they make decisions and solve problems, and helps them develop skills and strategies for working more effectively across differences. The simulation can also be used several times—each time feeling like a different game—so that participants can hone their abilities.

Simulation participants create their own cultures using a set of rule cards provided. Rules are relatively ambiguous, so participants are free to create cultures with which they are comfortable. Following the agreed-upon rules for their culture, participants create a myth symbolizing their culture, often a creation myth. Time is then allowed for participants to become familiar with their new culture (acculturation), before they begin work on the same assigned task (build a bridge, design a neighborhood…) or case study within their own cultural group. Shortly thereafter, the groups mix (according to a prearranged plan) and participants continue their work—while maintaining their own cultural rules and behaviors. Of course, as in all simulations, the debriefing is the most important part of the activity, as that is where we make sense of what we have experienced—where the learning occurs. Ecotonos‘ debriefing is unique in that learners chart, graph or draw the process they used, an extremely powerful method that reveals how cultural traits and values were utilized or ignored, how information was shared and decisions were made.

Ecotonos is an extremely rich simulation because participants engage in a dynamic experience 
that vividly illustrates the strengths and limits of collaboration across cultures. It can be played multiple times with the same group for developmental learning since there is no “trick” to the game; this enables participants to practice and improve their collaborative abilities; a different task or case study can be used each time Ecotonos is conducted, along with different rule cards, which makes each play a unique experience.

In 2015, in a study published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management (Vol. 26, No. 15, pages 1995-2014) by Joost JLE Bücker and Hubert Korzilius, the researchers found that “Ecotonos increases the ability to reflect on cross-cultural interactions, and stimulates interest in intercultural behavior and practicing cross-cultural relevant behavior.”

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Ecotonos comes with an instruction manual (facilitator guide), cultural name buttons, 30 sets of rule cards, three case studies and three team tasks—all in a small, hard plastic case for easy transport. The detailed and extensive facilitator guide includes set-up, process, and debrief instructions to complete the simulation in two hours; explanation of the intercultural theory inherent in the simulation; full instructions for using the various handouts on intercultural collaboration; and sections on adapting Ecotonos to a variety of cultures and situations.

One of the best aspects of Ecotonos is that it’s so affordable. You can have hundreds of executives or students play this simulation for years, sharing it between departments, for the one-time investment of US$249. Want to know more? Please contact Cultural Detective via email or telephone +1-913-901-0243, or order it via our website. Together with your help we can build the intercultural competence that is so sorely lacking in our world today!

Ecotonos is a great tool!

We would like to thank Nicole Martin of the Rocky Mountain Institute for this guest blog post about her work with a team from SEED: Sustainable Energy for Economic Development . We are honored and privileged to know our materials aid work of this kind!

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I just wanted to pass on some feedback. My group of 17 really enjoyed running Ecotonos: A simulation for collaborating across cultures and identified it as a highlight of our day. Team members from SEED drew some valuable insights and connections to their real life work from it.

Since I had not seen Ecotonos run before, it is a credit to the materials that it went so well. I followed the directions and it worked! I really appreciated the clear and complete instructions.

I also wanted to share a tweak that I made. In the acculturation section, I had them create visual identifiers for their groups using craft materials. It helped them acculturate and get talking and moving.

Of course, my creative facilitation idea was sparked by forgetting the buttons back at the office 🙂 Here is a picture of a debrief. You can see the watch necklace (monochronic time group) and the mobius strip hat (polychronic time group) on the left side.

Thanks for the great tool!

To learn more about Ecotonos or to purchase the game, which you’ll be able to use for years to come and replay differently with the same group multiple times, click here.

Virtual Teamwork in Latin America

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Our friends over at Iceberg in Buenos Aires have completed one of the first surveys I’ve seen on global virtual teams in Latin America. I’d like to congratulate them and thank them for this effort!

An astounding 88% of respondents to the survey confirm that the advantages of working in a global team outweigh the challenges! Their major reason? The diversity of perspectives, knowledge, and expertise among team members, which in their experience can generate innovative solutions and outstanding results.

Over 30% of the respondents reported spending more than half their work days interacting with colleagues around the globe; another 56% spend between 10-50% of their work days interacting with global clients. 68% of their global teams get together face-to-face at least once a year but, surprisingly, they prefer video conferences over live meetings! Even though respondents view video conferencing as their best coordination tool, only 32% of them use it in all their virtual meetings.

Survey results showed that diversity on these teams arose due to functional necessity, rather than because of its inherent benefits. Over half of those responding report their companies have lost opportunities due to cross-cultural misunderstandings. Despite this fact, only 21% of them report having received training to improve their virtual team’s productivity! Even sadder to me is that 53% of those who have received training did so in a webinar, 32% via e-learning, and only 16% had the opportunity to attend a face-to-face training or team-building session. Come on, Latin America! OJO! We’ve got work to do!

What did the respondents say is most complex about working in a global virtual team? First is including colleagues that don’t participate, then sending messages that are adequately understood, following up on what teammates are working on, and achieving agreements and decisions. 69% said the lack of co-location makes it more challenging to create trusting relationships, 68% said the distance makes it difficult to understand the context of colleagues’ communication, and 60% noted that distance can therefore generate conflict.

What qualities do they feel are most important for success on a global team? Communicating with clarity, adapting to cultural differences, and demonstrating a collaborative spirit.

Below is a visual that Iceberg created to summarize their findings.

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While there were only 86 respondents from four countries included in the survey, it is a good start. Respondents were representative of what we might expect in Latin America: 54% work for enterprises with fewer than 5000 employees, and 25% work for organizations with over 20,000 employees worldwide. 27% of the respondents were manager level, with 16% at director level. Most were from the IT industry, followed by consulting, education, and consumer products. The full Iceberg report (in Spanish) can be downloaded here.

Overall, the sample is fairly small and rather skewed, however it is useful for gathering ideas on how to make our virtual teams more effective, and some of the uniqueness we might find with teams and team members based in Latin America. If you work with global or virtual teams, be sure to check out Cultural Detective Global Teamwork, a powerful developmental competence tool that is included in every subscription to Cultural Detective Online.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Upgrades to Cultural Detective Online Enable Even Better Collaboration

QuickViewLensesOur most recent update incorporates significant changes to the user incident sections and the group functionality, in direct response to feedback from CDO users, so please keep those ideas coming! At Cultural Detective, we are always working to improve our flagship product, Cultural Detective Online.

conference_calling_support_headerQuick View Lenses: A New Tab On The Main Menu Bar
Maybe you are in a meeting, and you can just feel you are not quite connecting with the person sitting across from you, or the people on the other end of the conference call. Now you can quickly and easily open any of the Cultural Detective Values Lenses to use as clues in deciphering the dynamics of your conversation, and to help you bridge the communication gap!

The new Quick View Lenses tab is visible anytime you are logged into CD Online, located just to the right of the Package tab. Clicking on this tab will open a new browser window with a drop-down menu listing all Lenses in the CD Online system. Clicking on a Lens name will open that Values Lens in the new browser window.

Group Functionality: New Features
The real magic of cross-cultural collaboration is in using our differences as assets to innovate, create and solve problems—together.

You already know you can subscribe to Cultural Detective Online either as an individual user or as a group. A group may be a team that works together on a project, or a class of students. The group leader may be the team leader or the class instructor.

Collaborative Incidents and Debriefs
Group members have the option of sharing a critical incident they upload with the members of their group with one easy step. The Group Administrator will receive an email requesting approval of the incident for group-wide publication. After publication to the group, the incident creator’s name will be listed as having authored the incident.

A group member now is able to invite other group members to collaborate on an incident. This is a terrific new feature! Let’s say I’m working together with Ana on a project. I upload a story about my collaboration with Ana. She is now able to edit my incident draft, making sure it’s also accurate from her perspective. Then, together, we can debrief what happened: she gives me insight into her intentions, and I let her know what I was intending. Together, we enter interpersonal bridges—what each of us can do to reach out to the other while contributing our personal best, and systemic bridges—what our organization can do to support our efforts and encourage our intercultural success.

Group members can also create a Sample Debrief to aid other group members. The Sample Debrief will appear just like a Sample Debrief written by an author. Collaborators on an incident may also contribute to its debrief. We strongly recommend that group members create a Sample Debrief for each shared incident to aid fellow group members in their learning.

Our recent upgrade included MANY other great additions to the CD Online system. For just US$99/year, or US$150/two years, your individual subscription gives you access to the 60+ packages in our system, and permission to project its contents to your classes, trainees, or coaching clients. I can’t imagine where you can get better value for your investment!

Please join our 130 authors in putting this incredibly robust tool to good use, to build respect, understanding, inclusion and teamwork in your arenas of influence. Want to learn more about what Cultural Detective Online can do for you and your organization? Join us for our next free 90-minute webinar—click here to view the full schedule through the next few months.

Virtual Teaming

With mobile work styles on the rise, management styles need to change and adjust to the new reality. Along with the obvious benefits to employers and workers, there are significant drawbacks to a mobile work style—policies need to be modified, expectations made clear in different ways, and creating a cohesive work group becomes more difficult.

Any organization has its challenges in trying to shape a random collection of people into a “team” of some sort—whether it’s a small group engaged in a specific project, or the group spirit that often emerges from employees working together to accomplish desired results.

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With a mobile work style, how do we achieve a sense of community, a sense of shared purpose that allows employees to perform at their best to achieve the overall goals of the company?

One answer is found in the Method and tools offered by the Cultural Detective series. Cultural Detective: Self-Discovery is designed to explore one’s own values—what makes each of us “tick.” This self-knowledge is the base upon which to build intercultural competence.

Cultural Detective: Bridging offers a way to look at conflicts and to move beyond a win/lose scenario to “bridge” differences to work more constructively together. Theory and practice are interwoven to provide concrete suggestions for learning to resolve difficult situations.

The Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork package is designed to assist both collocated and remote teams in meeting the five major challenges of teamwork in todays’ global environment. While many companies embracing mobile work styles are located in one geographical location, they wrestle with many of the same challenges as virtual teams working internationally. Cultural Detective: Global Teamwork provides insights, processes, and tools to meet these challenges.

And of course, no mobile work style would be complete without a subscription to Cultural Detective Online, the virtual intercultural coach that is available, anywhere anytime 24/7. So helpful to have a reference available before you email or talk to your new colleague from a culture different than your own! Do they value direct, straight-to-the point communication, or a more nuanced approach? Should you spend some time getting to know them personally, or just get directly to the business discussion?

Did you know you can set up groups within Cultural Detective Online so you can work virtually with employees to enhance their intercultural competence? Let us show you how! Join one of our free webinars to learn about the capacities of CD Online, and ask us how your organization can take advantage of group subscriptions to Cultural Detective Online.

Cultural Detective Online for International Teams

You’ve already told us Cultural Detective is fabulous. That it’s helped your team achieve its deliverables. That it’s rocketed your performance to new levels. That’s why we are very excited to SOON be able to offer you the Cultural Detective product line as an integrated, online system rather than as stand-alone packages! And, better yet, it’s designed as a personal coach, encouraging you and your team members to track your goals, summarize and apply your learning, and upload, debrief and share with a facilitator, team lead or each other your daily life experiences (and make accurate meaning from them).

Be sure to stay tuned for our official launch. Or, enter to win a free subscription for you or your team!

If you are unable to view the video above (if you are on an iPad or other device that doesn’t play Flash), click here to view the video on YouTube.

Please feel free to share this video with others who might be seeking a virtual intercultural coach. Please let us know what you think! Thank you!