By Dianne Hofner Saphiere

The following are intended as notes on activities to stimulate your thinking; they are not intended to be comprehensive explanations. Please feel free to share with us your ideas and activities and we will be happy to post them and credit you.

1. Ask participants to draw their work group, department or organization in context—in context of the larger organization or environment and web of relationships in which it exists.

  1. Audience: Anyone.
  2. Purposes:
    1. To compare and contrast views of “reality” from differing perspectives.
    2. To build shared viewpoints and definitions.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What do these maps have in common? What tendencies do you see?
    2. What differences do you see between these maps?  Are there things that exist in some maps and not in others?
    3. What do the maps emphasize? Are there things these maps minimize?

 2. Ask participants to diagram or strip map their work processes, noting where their work processes interact with the processes of other groups. Have participants use sticky notes in coded colors to add interaction points that may be missing.

  1. Audience: Anyone, particularly those experiencing a merger, integration, or structural shift in the organization.
  2. Purposes:
    1. To practice reflection and develop self-understanding.
    2. To develop shared understanding.
    3. To help people see that what appears simple from a distance can in fact be quite complicated.
    4. To improve collaboration.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What new information have you gained from these maps? Do you have any clarification questions you would like to ask, in order to be able to understand a map more completely?
    2. How many areas of interaction do you see? How many of these were captured originally, as compared to how many were added on by others?
    3. Do you see similar tasks or processes that are performed by different groups, and that might benefit from cross-functional information sharing?
    4. Do these maps show any areas where we might streamline our processes or enhance our effectiveness? Any ideas for reengineering?

3. Ask expatriates and locals to draw a process: how they get to work in the morning, or how they make a decision such as launching a new product or hiring a new manager. Compare and contrast the maps. When we did this one in Nigeria the response was overwhelming—“expatriates run straight to their desks in the morning without greeting the locals appropriately and catching up on the news of the day, as they would be wise to do.”

  1. Audience: Expatriate/local staff.
  2. Purposes:
    1. To raise self-awareness.
    2. To improve understanding of other ways of doing things.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What similarities and differences do you see in these maps?
    2. What values or beliefs underly the behavior captured in the maps?

4. Ask participants to map what gives them satisfaction in working with others, focusing on the face-to-face connection (people they work with real-time). You may need to brainstorm a bit and share a couple of sample maps, as many will not know how to “map” what gives them a feeling of connection and bonding.

  1. Audience: Virtual, geographically-dispersed teams, work groups or communities.
  2. Purposes:
    1. To help people get to know each other.
    2. To encourage self-reflection and self-responsibility.
    3. To build community relationships.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What similarities and differences do you see in these maps?
    2. What did you learn about yourself?
    3. How can you replicate or transfer the satisfaction you receive in face-to-face relationships in the virtual environment?
    4. What purposeful steps can you take to make your online relationships more rewarding?

5. Copy a world map with a polar perspective, or some other map that has a perspective with which your learners might not be familiar. Cut the map into pieces, and put all the pieces into an envelope. Make one set of map pieces for each learner. Instruct participants to open their map puzzle and assemble them, as you time their work. (This activity originated with Heather Robinson, co-author of Cultural Detective: Switzerland.)

  1. Audience: Anyone
  2. Purposes:
    1. To realize how we rely on what we know to solve problems.
    2. To experience creative solution-finding or thinking outside the box.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What strategies did you use to assemble the map?
    2. Which strategies were effective? Why?
    3. Which strategies did not work, or got in the way of you achieving your objective? Why?

6. Ask participants to find and share historic maps of their countries or communities. They may find maps that show their country at the center of the world, or that show what is familiar in detail, but the unfamiliar much foggier.

  1. Audience: Best with a multinational group
  2. Purposes:
    1. To realize that most peoples' views of the world are generally ethnocentric.
    2. To develop motivation to get beyond ethnocentric thinking.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What can these maps teach us about how the human mind works? About how we view ourselves? About how we view the unfamiliar?
    2. What implicit messages do we learn if we use such maps?

7. Ask participants to share examples of maps or instructions they have received for getting to a certain place, particularly when they were traveling or living abroad. This activity has a particular impact when you are working between cultures that use street names and numbers, and cultures that do not. We once had a participant bring in a photo of an Inuit whalebone map. The carved bone was inserted into the ocean/waves in order to tell the user his/her location. Quite a contrast to a global positioning satellite (GPS) device, but no doubt potentially more effective!

  1. Audience: Best with a multinational or well-traveled group
  2. Purposes:
    1. To reflect on how differently people see the world around them, what they see as important.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What markers or metrics are used in these various maps (street names, numbers, meters, turn at the Coca Cola machine or the food shop…)?
    2. What might the maps tell us about the mindset of the person who drew the map or wrote the instructions? What does that person see as common sense? As important?
    3. Are the different ways of drawing maps transferable—would one of these maps, effective in one context, work in another? Why or why not?
    4. In what ways are our everyday activities transferable across cultures and locations? How do we adjust?

8. Provide participants a map of a given region, continent or country, and ask them to fill in country names, capitals, or river and mountain names.

  1. Audience: Best with people who are new to working with a certain world area, but can be useful even with their home territory.
  2. Purposes:
    1. To realize the limitations of our own knowledge.
    2. To create motivation to learn.
  3. Sample Debrief Questions:
    1. What part of this task was easiest? Why?
    2. What part of this task was most challenging? Why?
    3. What might have made the task easier?
    4. What have you learned from this activity?

9. Of course, having your learners read the December 2005 issue of the Cultural Detective newsletter, or having them take our World Map Detective quiz, can also be good learning activities.