In 21st Century as Global Market is Shrinking… Cross Cultural Adaptation is a Must!

In 21st Century and in the era of Knowledge Based Industry when global market in shrinking cross culture adaptation is not only a MUST but is only a mantra to succeed. In my previous two employments, we had 15 and 24 nationals respectively from different countries and many of our people from India go on Deputation to other countries and many of them face challenges to cope-up with the cultural change…behavioral change.

Understanding Intercultural Sensitivity

Why you need to go out, India is a country with “Diversity in Culture”. This diversity is the result of the coexistence of a number of religions as well as local traditions.

The beautiful temples of south India, easily identifiable by their ornately sculptured surface, in the desert of Kutch, Gujarat, on the other hand, the local folk pit themselves against the awesome forces of nature, in the extreme north is the high altitude desert of Ladakh, Local culture is visibly shaped by the faith – Buddhism – as well as by the harsh terrain.

With over one billion citizens, India is the second most populous nation in the world. It is impossible to speak of any one Indian culture, although there are deep cultural continuities that tie its people together.

In its quest for modernization, India has preserved its ancient civilization and never lost sight of the ideals that gave her strength through countless centuries. Science and technology has been steadily raising the living standard and prosperity of its people, but the nation of more than one billion people – one sixth of humanity – continues to live with some of its traditional values that go back 4,000 years and more. See this synthesis of tradition and modernity on your India Travel itinerary.

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

“Global diversity is the recognition and development of skills to deal with differences on both international and domestic fronts.” -Dr. Milton Bennett

How can we help employees in our organizations succeed in an increasingly complex workplace? Our function is to clarify what cultural competence is and why it is needed, and to help employees enhance understanding of their own culture, and increase their intercultural sensitivity and competence.
In 1986, Bennett created the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, which shows a progression of stages people may go through in developing intercultural competency. Since then, he has partnered with Dr. Mitch Hammer of American University to develop the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). (The inventory is a set of statements that allows an individual to assess his/her developmental stage of intercultural sensitivity according to the DMIS. This tool is valuable because it measures people’s ability to experience difference in relatively complex ways).

Why there is Resistance…Tool to understand resistance

Development of intercultural competence does not come without a struggle; some employees will protest these efforts. Bennett’s model helps us understand that the basic form of resistance is a defense response. People who respond to diversity efforts in this way are often moving from the model’s first stage of intercultural sensitivity, denial (a failure to recognize that cultural differences exist) into the second stage, defense (recognition of differences). Often, people at this stage may express concern about reverse discrimination. “Recognition of the fact that differences do exist carries a threat,” he says. The reaction is to defend one’s self. Bennett recommends listening carefully to the person’s fears and to help them understand how the organization will continue to extend opportunities to this person’s cultural group, even as efforts expand to include other cultural groups.

The model predicts that as time goes by, people can move from defense (stage two) into minimization (stage three). “With minimization, there’s more recognition that we’re dealing with people that are different, but there’s still resistance to that idea,” Bennett explains. “The belief is that somehow if we are more open in making sure that equal opportunity exists, everyone should be grateful and follow a set of rules.” Someone in this stage may say, “Why can’t we all just be Americans?” A person at this stage hopes that we will all converge into a single cultural position. Of course, this position assumes people are able and willing to shed their culture and take on American culture.

How to address backlash

Bennett recommends several approaches to addressing backlash:

· Cultural Self-Awareness: Help employees develop cultural awareness, including (if applicable) identification of European American ethnicity versus stopping at a more specific cultural self-awareness (such as Italian or Irish).

· Recognition of Cultural Capital: Prepare employees to deal with issues of privilege in a non-threatening way. Help them to identify their own cultural capital (what it means to belong to their own group and how that translates into institutional privilege).

· Establishing a Cultural Core: Facilitate an exploration of value commitment in the context of intercultural relativity.

In other words, we need to recognize that our values are culturally based. Then, we must develop the capability of working effectively with people with different values without feeling the need to give up our own values system. “I find that most diversity practitioners don’t have the ability to deal with this,” He says. “[The tendency is to think] if there aren’t any basic values, which by the way are mine, how do we work and live ethically?”

Bennett envisions this model extending beyond domestic to international diversity efforts. “Global diversity is the recognition and development of skills to deal with differences on both international and domestic fronts,” says Bennett.

Many organizations realize that diversity efforts involve on-going change strategies rather than one-time training events.

There is also a move toward coupling international and domestic diversity, and aligning intercultural competence with leadership development. “The danger [in these trends] of course is that international issues may be seen as diffusing other important [domestic diversity] issues,” Bennett cautions. Our challenge, then, is to maintain the emphasis on domestic issues within the context of the larger global diversity effort.

Stages of Intercultural Sensitivity

In the ’80’s and 90’s organizations have attempted to go beyond mere discrimination issues and even to “celebrate diversity.” However, celebration of diversity falls far short of what is needed for effective collaboration between mainstream agencies and ethnic minority communities. For organizations or individuals to move beyond “celebration” to a real ability to work appropriately with cultural difference requires a planned sequence of development.

Bennett describes six stages of development in intercultural sensitivity. The stages provide a good framework for determining how to work with and improve the capacity for intercultural sensitivity and collaboration. Some of his stages of “cultural sensitivity” include behaviors or adaptations the authors include under the definition of “cultural competence.”

1. Bennett refers to the first stage of the model as “denial.” It means that people in this stage are very unaware of cultural difference. If mainstream agency staff are in this stage of intercultural sensitivity, a huge problem can be expected in the delivery of education, health, and social services for ethnic minorities, a gap that does currently exist when these groups are compared to Anglo Americans. The task for staff at this first stage of intercultural sensitivity is to recognize cultural differences that are escaping their notice.

2. Whereas in the first stage we do not “see” cultural differences, in the second stage of cultural competence we do perceive cultural differences; however, differences from ourselves or the norms of our group are labeled very negatively. They are experienced as a threat to the centrality and “rightness” of our own value system. Bennett calls this stage “defense.”

3. In the third stage of intercultural sensitivity, minimization, we try to avoid stereotypes and even appreciate differences in language and culture. However, we still view many of our own values as universal, rather than viewing them simply as part of our own ethnicity. The task at the third level of intercultural sensitivity is to learn more about our own culture and to avoid projecting that culture onto other people’s experience.

This stage is particularly difficult to pass through when one cultural group has vast and unrecognized privileges when compared to other groups. This problem is so invisible that persons in mainstream agencies are often mystified when representatives of ethnic minorities consistently withdraw from collaborative activities.

4. A reasonable goal for many mainstream agencies is to ensure that all staff achieve at least the fourth developmental level in intercultural sensitivity. The fourth stage in Bennett’s model requires us to be able to shift perspective, while still maintaining our commitments to values. The task in this stage is to understand that the same behavior can have different meanings in different cultures. The comparisons that follow in the Toolkit can be particularly helpful for staff of mainstream agencies to improve their intercultural sensitivity in this stage of development. In order for collaboration to be successful long-term, this stage of intercultural sensitivity must be reached by the participants of the collaborative process. Bennett calls this stage “acceptance.”

5. The fifth stage of intercultural sensitivity, adaptation, may allow the person to function in a bicultural capacity. In this stage, a person is able to take the perspective of another culture and operate successfully within that culture. This ability usually develops in a two-part sequence. It requires that the person know enough about his or her own culture and a second culture to allow a mental Shift into the value scheme of the other culture, and an evaluation of behavior based on its norms, not the norms of the first individual culture of origin. This is referred to as “cognitive adaptation.” The more advanced form of adaptation is “behavioral adaptation,” in which the person can produce behaviors appropriate to the norms of the second culture. Persons serving as liaisons between a mainstream agency and an ethnic minority group need to be at this level of intercultural sensitivity.

6. In the sixth stage, the person can shift perspectives and frames of reference from one culture to another in a natural way. They become adept at evaluating any situation from multiple frames of reference. Some representatives in cross-cultural collaboration may reach this level, but most probably will not.

Stage six requires in-depth knowledge of at least two cultures (one’s own and another), and the ability to shift easily into the other cultural frame of reference. The task at this level of development is to handle the identity issues that emerge from this cultural flexibility. Bennett calls this final stage of intercultural sensitivity “integration.”

Building Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a tool to build individual and team effectiveness

The ability to communicate effectively with people of different backgrounds, cultures, or perspectives is essential to creating an inclusive, productive, and innovative work environment. This is the basis for leveraging peoples’ inputs to improve business results.

Each member of a team or an organization must build this competence to a degree consistent with their responsibilities and work. It is therefore important to be able to measure intercultural sensitivity and guide development for individuals, teams, and organizations.

The Intercultural Development Inventory, developed by Dr. Mitchell Hammer and Dr. Milton Bennett, is a 50-item, theory-based paper and pencil or web-based instrument that measures intercultural sensitivity as conceptualized in Dr. Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS).

The DMIS is a framework for explaining the reactions of people to cultural differences. The underlying assumption of the model is that as one’s experience of cultural differences becomes more complex, one’s potential competence in intercultural interactions increases. Dr. Bennett has identified a set of fundamental cognitive structures (or “worldviews”) that act as orientations to cultural difference.

The worldviews vary from more ethnocentric to more ethnorelative. According to the DMIS theory, more ethnorelative worldviews have more potential to generate the attitudes, knowledge, and behavior that constitute intercultural competence.

The IDI measures an individual’s and/or group’s fundamental worldview orientation to cultural difference, and thus the individual or group capacity for intercultural competence. As a theory-based test, the IDI meets the standard scientific criteria for a valid and reliable psychometric instrument.

Key Characteristics of the IDI

The IDI is currently administered as a paper and pencil instrument composed of 50 questions that are designed to measure an individual’s sensitivity to and awareness of cultural differences. The survey consists of statements reflecting attitudes toward cultural difference, and responses are scored on a five-point Likert-type scale. The instrument takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete. The results are compiled and a graphic profile of an individual or group’s predominant stage of intercultural development is generated. In addition, IDI results provide a textual interpretation of an individual or group’s stage of development and associated transition issues. Administration of the IDI is often accompanied by a pre-interview, in which respondents are asked about their backgrounds and prior experiences with different cultures. In addition, individuals and groups are provided with their IDI results in conjunction with a mandatory debriefing session that is facilitated by a trained and certified IDI administrator.