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Cultural Detective is a core process for improving collaboration, productivity, satisfaction and effectiveness in an international or multicultural environment. It is a collaborative project of over 130 worldwide professionals, and it is also an intercultural competence tool. IT is a process-based approach allows for ongoing use and continuous improvement, helps prevent stereotyping and encourages meaningful dialogue.
The approach has been used on a proprietary basis by major multinationals and NGOs worldwide since 1989, and has been publicly available since 2004. It includes a series of culture- and topic-specific available via site license or online download. There is talk of an online subscription service. A video describes the core process.
Cultural Detective is anchored in three fundamental capacities:
- Know yourself as an individual and as a complex amalgam of the influences of multiple cultures – Understand your (own) Subjective Culture.
- Get to know others as individuals and as a complex amalgam of the influences of multiple cultures – Acquire Cultural Literacy/become culturally literate.
- Fully include, utilize and appreciate everyone involved, leveraging their similarities and differences as assets. Ensure systems, processes and structures support interpersonal skills – Be a Cultural Bridge/bridge cultures.
The capacities are developed through the use of the Worksheet, used to analyze the series' 1000+ critical incidents involving people from over more than cultures and spanning multiple industries and professional functions. The Worksheet is also used for real-time conflict resolution and teambuilding, as well as in a journal approach to make sense of one's own life experiences. Values Lenses provide clues to deeper understanding. Users can develop their own Personal Values Lens using the series' Cultural Self Discovery package.
The Cultural Detective method is theoretically grounded yet practical, allowing for success because it focuses on the differences that make a difference in real situations. Theoretical concepts inherent in the method include:
- Culture is a Lens that colors nearly everything we see, say and do, and the decisions we make. It largely dictates how we make meaning.
- Culture is an ever-changing dynamic not a static entity.
- Intercultural competence is context-specific.
- People are complex amalgams of multiple cultural influences (age, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual tradition, education and training, nationality, ethnicity, organizational culture, etc.).
- Nationality is not necessarily (or usually) the most powerful culture at play in an interaction.
- The value of observation and objective description that attempts to filter out cultural bias and expectations
- The link between values and human behavior
- The importance of recognizing positive intent
- The distinction between intent and perception
- The frequency and reasons for negative perception
- Bridges between cultures must be two-way or multidirectional for long-term effectiveness and mutual benefit.
- Organizations and communities must reinforce interpersonal competence with systems, processes and structures that reward and develop those competencies.
Connection with other models and approaches
Cultural Detective extends the earlier intercultural work of people such as Edward T. Hall, Dean Barnlund, L. Robert Kohls, Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn, and John C. Condon. It dovetails well with other key intercultural competence tools such as the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, the cultural dimensions approaches of people such as Geert Hofstede or Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner. Significant work called has been conducted on the dovetailing of Personal Leadership: Making a World of Difference and Cultural Detective.
Facilitator Certification workshops are held throughout the world and are well regarded by seasoned intercultural practitioners as well as those new to the field. Participants can receive graduate level academic credit. Many of these workshops are offered in partnership with the Intercultural Communication Institute, and also in collaboration with International House at the University of California Berkeley.
Coaching using the Cultural Detective method is becoming increasingly popular. A consortium of Cultural Detective authors and users has begun to offer a longer-term “B.I.G. Cultural Detective Coaching Programme.”
The company publishes a “Clues to Intercultural Effectiveness” e-newsletter several times a year that includes designs, activities and tips for developing intercultural competence. There are user groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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- Kathleen Curran (2009). "Cultural Detective: A tool for global diversity and inclusion practices" (PDF). Linkage Diversity Toolbox. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 25, 2012.
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- Acting: "Hamming it up with Cultural Detective"
- Ethics/Risk/Compliance: International Association of Risk and Compliance Professionals (IARCP), "Ethics Training 3"
- Evaluation: American Evaluation Association (AEA), "Interculturally competent evaluation tips", Dianne Hofner Saphiere
- Import/Export: Australian Institute of Export
- Leadership: San Jose State University Global Leadership Advancement Center
- Project Management: Securing cross-cultural collaboration in international projects, Dianne Hofner Saphiere, IIL Knowledge Portal
- Project management across borders: India, Heather Robinson, IIL Knowledge Portal
- Meeting the intercultural challenges of virtual project management, George Simons, IIL Knowledge Portal
- Talent Management: American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Geetha Rajagopal and Dianne Hofner Saphiere
- Study Abroad: Intercultural Programs
- Supply Management/Negotiation: International Supply Management (ISM) Conference, Navigating the rough seas of intercultural negotiation, Maggie Fischer and Dianne Hofner Saphiere
- Teaching: University of Western Ontario Teaching Support Centre, "Some clues for decoding each other", Nadine LeGros
- University Staff Development: University of California Berkeley, "Bridging cultures in the workplace", Breidi Truscott
Non-English language information
- Japanese language: Understanding values differences, Carl Kay, ASCA
- Korean language: Employee news television, Hyundai-Kia Automotive
- German language: Cultural Detective Turkey, Istanbul Post
- Spanish language/Español: Cultural Detective video dubbed by Fernando Parrado