Overview of some sessions on Intercultural Management


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Overview of some sessions on Intercultural Management

  1. 1. 1 15th Annual IMI Conference on Intercultural Relations March 13-14, 2014 Washington, D.C. Twitter coverage: @kovalmolod #IMI2014 Thursday, March 13, 2014 Session 1 Global Consulting: Insights on Bridging Cultures, Influencing and Use of Power, Suzanne Zaldivar Track: Business The session was a good start of the conference learning for me. It mainly focused on the power dynamics. I was familiar with most of the theories and frameworks mentioned, such as Ethnocentric - Ethnorelative continuum, but it was interesting to apply it to the idea of building consulting/helping relationship. The most useful part of the session was an exercise on mapping contextual power dynamics. It corresponded with what I previously learned in my Communication for Social and Economic Development and International Communications courses about power distribution, and network theory. The scenario focused on international entities providing consultant support to the government representatives in Afghanistan. It included both individual and partner work, which was valuable in regards to the in-session networking. It would be valuable to learn more about hands-on experience of the trainer, some challenging situations or a real-life case study. Overall, this session helped me to refresh my knowledge about power networks and reconsider some of the
  2. 2. 2 approaches in application to consultancy. Insight: consulting literally means discussing (translated from Latin)! Session 2 Flipping the Cross-Cultural Training Program: Promoting Participant Pre- Training Learning, Neal Goodman & Jennifer Horowitz Track: Education, Training and Exchanges / Media and Technology This session primarily focused on pre-training online activities. One of the most useful takeaways for me was a presentation of a self-assessment tool that includes 11 cultural dimensions: http://www.global-dynamics.com/culture-wise/cultural- tendencies-diagnostic-assessment. It helps to determine one’s own position on the cultural scale and compare it to other cultures in the world. This is especially valuable for people going abroad to a different culture. I’m currently taking a Social Documentary class and my documentary project is devoted to cross-cultural understanding. I’m planning to refer to this tool in my project description as one of the ways to enhance experiences abroad. The session also included group discussions by area of primary focus or topic of interest. According to my previous experience of e-teaching and e- learning I joined the group who discussed the ways to better engage corporate employees and leaders into a flipped cross-cultural learning. We had a productive conversation and came up with several main principles of approaching corporate employees: videos, preliminary interviews of top managers in regards to their learning expectations, and including more digital and real-time simulations and interactive learning scenarios. Keynote Speaker, Rosiland Jordan, Al Jazeera http://blogs.aljazeera.com/profile/rosiland-jordan
  3. 3. 3 This was an inspiring and valuable speech for me as an International Media graduate student with the experience of working in the Russian bureau of the British newspaper The Guardian. For instance, the keynote speaker described what international media should be about – “understanding, respecting, describing, reaching across cultural differences.” She also mentioned a burning subject of U.S.- Russia relations around Ukraine crisis, speaking about how people need to hear different perspectives on political news. She gave an example of the human story related to the crisis that they covered showing a wider view on how political situation affects families, business, human relations. R. Jordan also talked about engaging global youth in reporting and holding them accountable at the same time. It was interesting to learn that Aljazeera gets a lot of news and story leads from social media users. Some of the other ideas that resonated with me: “We have an obligation to explain as much as we report,” (confronting biases through a detailed narrative) “ We have to stop assuming that the world in which we were born is the world we live in now,” "When under a deadline we have be careful not to stereotype the communities on which we report."
  4. 4. 4 Session 3 Enlivening Cross-Cultural Training: Three Activities to Encourage Engagement and Skill Building, Pamela Ex Track: Topics in Intercultural Relations This was one of the most applied, interactive and useful sessions. I learned a lot of ideas, and look forward to applying new activities in my own work. First, we learned about six ways to enliven and shorten introductions at the trainings. Then, we focused on how to engage participants into discussing multiple perspectives. We were invited to split into groups and do an exercise on cross-cultural interactions and stereotypes. I’ve realized that this exercise would be applicable not only for cross-cultural setting, but for any training that involves multiple perspectives. For example, it could be used when talking about differences between genders. In fact, I’ve used a similar exercise when working on public health awareness with a mixed group of teenage boys and girls. The trainer provided a detailed handout and invited all the participants to share their experiences. The session closed down with another exercise on many faces of “yes”, which looked at the meaning of “yes” and “no” in direct and indirect cultures. This exercise corresponded with everything I learned in my intercultural communication classes and provided me with a practical tool that can be easily applied in my future work.
  5. 5. 5 Session 4 Contrast-Culture Simulation, Mr. Khan & Gary Weaver Track: Topics in Intercultural Relations Everyone should meet Mr. Khan at least once! I’ve heard a lot about this exercise in Prof. Weaver’s classes and finally got a chance to see it. I didn’t get to participate, because I’m not an American, but it was very interesting to observe the interaction. I was working out scenarios and behaviors that I would apply in a similar situation. It was important to be reminded that when we are doing a simulation exercise like that, we should give enough time to the volunteer role-player to debrief and get out of the role. Interestingly, while observing and analyzing this exercise, I remembered a number of similar interactions, in which I was involved. Some of them didn’t happen on the international level, but it was definitely a cross-cultural experience, because of different values, education, and communication principles. This session helped me to analyze these experiences and come up with the tips for future interactions. Friday, March 14, 2014 Session 5 The Function of Storytelling on Facebook and Twitter, Paige Arthur & Alexandra Botti Track: Media and Technology This session was of special interest to me as I’m doing my independent study on online commenting behaviors in social media, and also update several social media groups and pages for work. The session focused on sociolinguistic aspects of social media storytelling, which was also relevant to my undergraduate research in linguistics. It provided a lot of interesting insights and ideas, such as, "Identity is
  6. 6. 6 strongly shaped by narrative" (David Matsumoto) or "Consistency is crucial to avoid being considered fake" (Goffman) The speakers talked about bigger and smaller narratives, narrative strategies to enhance our digital relationships and understanding of others. They also draw an important distinction between Twitter and Facebook: Twitter is mostly content based, while Facebook focuses on affective text. In short, our use of Twitter can be largely described as "my expertise" vs. Facebook – "my best day". I had a fruitful conversation with the session leaders at the end, and we exchanged resources, contacts and agreed to be in touch on the possible research cooperation. Session 6 Leading through Conflict: Cross-Cultural Analysis and Skill Building for Third Party Intervention, Gururaj Kumar, Julian Portilla & Jared Ordway Track: Business This session also included a simulation, which corresponded with the Khan exercise. It focused on the idea of preliminary data analysis, which is critical for a leader in a conflict situation. More specifically, it explored a space that exists on the intersection of conflict, leadership and cultures.
  7. 7. 7 While the simulation was interesting, I gained more from the theoretical part of this session. There was some valuable advice on how to observe emerging patterns through the data analysis, as well as on 21st century leadership. Such features as reflection, diversity and ingenuity were reconsidered in regards to the new approaches to leadership. For example, in regards to ingenuity, instead of preserving status quo it is now more important to be able to rethink core assumptions and respond to new threats and opportunities. Keynote Speaker, Moisés Naím, an internationally-syndicated columnist and best- selling author of influential books, http://moisesnaim.com/ This was an extremely powerful speech by a renowned expert on power distribution, which included a presentation of his recently published book The End of Power. He started by asking, “Who can immediately give me a name of the top person in The Washington Post today?” Nobody could come up with a quick answer, while everybody working in the field of international relations knew such facts 10-15 years ago. Thus, he demonstrated that distribution of power and powerful individuals has changed. "Being a dictator is not a stable secure job anymore," he noted. In fact, individuals we wouldn’t think of before, such as a Brazilian clown Tiririca, can gain more power these days and make it to the top government. Some other powerful facts: "For every dollar that the Taliban spent on 9/11, the US has spent 7 million." An important takeaway/insight: "The power to control is being replaced by the power to block" (this is especially relevant in regards to the internet surveillance programs in different countries). Also, large-scale concentrations of power are becoming harder to sustain. But power over modern telecommunications is becoming more and more valuable. At the same, social media and modern technologies are just tools, but they need users and drivers who have their agenda, intentions and
  8. 8. 8 motivations. One of the most repeated, re-tweeted and powerful ideas discussed by the speaker was that now “power is easier to acquire, harder to use and easier to lose.” It was great that all the participants received the book, which develops many of the ideas mentioned by the speaker. Session 7 Our Five Senses at Work in Our Cross Cultural Interactions, Patricia M Coleman Track: Topics in Intercultural Relations This session was interactive and raised consciousness about our five senses. It provided interesting exercises focusing and reflecting on one or several senses. The trainer involved a variety of techniques and props – videos, sounds, even a touch-and-taste exercise. The session was very popular among the conference participants. I was more interested in observing the trainer facilitating discussions and exercises. I also provided detailed photo coverage of the session. Some of the takeaways: what matters with our senses is a frame of reference. Also, being cross-cultural is about asking questions, not making assumptions (which was well demonstrated in the exercise when participants were invited to drink water that could as well be acid or vinegar). There were many interesting techniques on breaking stereotypes that we create while trusting our senses, without applying thinking and interaction skills.
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  10. 10. 10 Session 8 D-I-V-E the Digital Intercultural Virtual Edge: Using Technology to Enhance Intercultural Learning, Collaboration, Innovation and Relationship Building, Lobna Ismail & Shelley Morrison Track: Media and Technology Some of the outstanding moments of this session were a series of powerful videos on breaking Islam stereotypes. Again, I realized how such videos can be relevant in any other field that involves breaking stigma, finding new angles and approaches to cross-cultural problems. I had a chance to communicate with both presenters throughout the conference and learned a lot about their experience. This session summarized their expertise and provided specific tools and ideas of using technology for collaboration and learning. We were briefly introduced to the Second Life game, which was called “a must-do” for intercultural professionals interested in global virtual projects. One other valuable web site is “Visual speaks” – it has resources for conducting a cross-cultural comparison. It provides a variety of pictures that can be used for analyzing differences in perceptions. All the participants contributed to the session by sharing names of the films that may create cross-cultural learning experience, valuable web- resources. This session helped me to organize my knowledge of the subject and set new goals for development and exploring new digital resources. It was a good way to finish my learning experience at the conference. Session facilitators provided all the participants with a useful handout on digital resources.