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The cross-cultural education of employees is becoming increasingly important for globalising companies. Intercultural trainer Eleonore Breukel recommends three easily accessible tools to help HR managers, trainers and employees who are working in an international environment.


Organisations are now taking serious steps to ensure that employees working in an international environment are capable of looking at their company goals from a multicultural perspective.

Through heightening employees' cultural awareness, organisations become more capable of generating new ideas on how to transform the organisation in its globalisation process because they will be in a better position to understand how to gain commitment and motivate others to accomplish their organisations' goals in cross-border situations.

Intercultural skills can be developed in an entertaining way via easy to access tools and programmes. Here are three tools which I can recommend from experience.

The Cultural Detective

The Cultural Detective® is a fun, simple to implement intercultural tool that maximizes learning in a two-hour training program as well as being a valuable resource for immediate access to intercultural scenarios. The more than 70 authors who have contributed to the Cultural Detective series are a highly respected group of interculturalists who are located in over 60 countries.

The tool provides a mental model and a shared vocabulary for managing diversity. Once employees are familiar with the intercultural terminology, it is easy to assess cultural disconnects or gaps during international meetings and to create new and productive ways to bridge differences for successful collaboration. The activities in Cultural Detective centre on helping teams work together effectively and giving expatriates insights into the local culture.

Cultural Detective: Once participants grasp the core values of a culture they analyse the actions of characters in the case studies.

Via the Cultural Detective website (www.culturaldetective.com) you can download complete training tools for 35 cultures and search a database by industry, culture, or situation, for 170 additional real-life case studies. Online access to individual items means that organisations and trainers don't have to make a large initial investment to acquire the tools.

Each cultural package contains a value wheel with the core values of that particular culture. Once participants grasp the core values of a culture they analyse the actions of characters in the case studies, informed by their new knowledge. Participants decipher the situation and come up with ideas to bridge the gaps in understanding. They learn to look at each situation from multiple perspectives and acquire bridging skills by breaking down the case scenarios on special worksheets.

Two of the cultural packages, China and the USA, now have versions that can be used completely online, without requiring a download. They are designed to facilitate access for individual employees who want to work through the training independently. Many of the other cultures will shortly be available in this format as well.

The Cultural Detective has been used in workshops and training programmes around the world by a large number of the top 500 companies including Shell, ING, ABN AMRO, SAP, Symantec, Capgemini, Chiron, Johnson & Johnson, as well as ministries, NGOs and universities around the world.

One intercultural consultant at the ILC-Language Institute in Waalwijk, the Netherlands says that she found the Cultural Detective so successful in her training sessions that she now includes it as a staple part of the training programmes.

The Diversophy game

Another stimulating intercultural tool is Diversophy; a card game designed to increase cultural knowledge about values, history, customs and habits. Participants answer multiple choice questions in teams and follow the suggested exercises after each new topic is raised.├é  These provide opportunities to exchange information on local practices and proverbs which allow players to develop a deeper understanding, not only of the culture examined, but also of their fellow players.

Diversophy: Participants answer multiple choice questions in teams and follow the suggested exercises after each new topic is raised.

Given the competitive element in Diversophy, it is a very dynamic training tool that adds entertainment to country-specific business briefings or training sessions.

Diversophy can be downloaded or played online from www.diversophy.com

The Global Diversity Desk Reference

The 'Global Diversity Desk Reference' by Lee Gardenswartz, Anita Row, Patricia Digh and Martin F. Bennett (ISBN 0-78796773-4) is a book packed full of excellent tools. It presents highly relevant information and activities that build awareness, increase knowledge and enhance the user's ability to create options for resolutions inside organisations.

The tools help readers to develop skills to manage global diversity through providing insight into the new corporate cultures that are created by international expansion and offering concrete suggestions and pragmatic methods to successfully reconcile the diversity within a global workforce. 

These are only a few of the tools available for developing intercultural skills but they are especially valuable for HR managers, trainers and employees working in an international environment, seeking resources that can boost their own intercultural knowledge.

November 2005

Eleonore Breukel is the founder of Intercultural Communication BV (www.intercultural.nl) in the Netherlands.

Subject: Intercultural skills, tools for developing intercultural skills