Cultural Detective

Cultural Detective is designed to improve conditions and productivity in an international or multicultural environment. As an intercultural competence tool, it is designed to lessen stereotyping and improve dialogue.[1] Cultural Detective, while it is a registered trademark of a single business entity[which?], it is also a project involving around 130 professionals from various places in the world.

The approach has been used on a proprietary basis by multinationals and NGOs in various locations around the world[2] since 1989, and has been publicly available since 2004.[3] It includes a series of culture- and topic-specific[clarification needed] available via site license or online download. A video describes the core process.[clarification needed]

Cultural Detective focuses on developing three capacities in its participants:

  1. Know yourself as an individual and as a being made of influences of multiple cultures – Understand your (own) Subjective Culture.[4]
  2. Get to know others as individuals and as beings made of influences of multiple cultures – Acquire Cultural Literacy.
  3. Fully include, utilize and appreciate everyone involved, with their similarities and differences as assets. Make sure systems and processes support interpersonal skills – Be a Cultural Bridge.

These capacities are developed through the Worksheet,[5] used to analyze the series' 1000+ critical incidents involving people from various cultures, industries and professional functions. The Worksheet is used for real-time conflict resolution and team-building, as well as an individual's journal to analyze one's own life experiences. There is also discussion of values, both from various cultures and from examination of one's own set of values.

Theoretical underpinnings[edit]

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:

  1. 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.[6]
  2. Culture is an ever-changing dynamic not a static entity.[7]
  3. Intercultural competence is context-specific.[8][9][10]
  4. People are complex amalgams of multiple cultural influences (age, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual tradition, education and training, nationality, ethnicity, organizational culture, etc.).[11]
  5. Nationality is not necessarily (or usually) the most powerful culture at play in an interaction.[12]
  6. The value of observation and objective description that attempts to filter out cultural bias and expectations[13]
  7. The link between values and human behavior[14]
  8. The importance of recognizing positive intent
  9. The distinction between intent and perception[15]
  10. The frequency and reasons for negative perception
  11. Bridges between cultures must be two-way or multidirectional for long-term effectiveness and mutual benefit.
  12. Organizations and communities must reinforce interpersonal competence with systems, processes and structures that reward and develop those competencies.[16]

The metaphor of a detective reinforces many of the key approaches and theories of the method and helps those not skilled in this area to quickly grasp the concepts and use the tool.

Connection with other models and approaches[edit]

Cultural Detective extends the earlier intercultural work of people such as Edward T. Hall, Dean Barnlund, L. Robert Kohls,[17] Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn, and John C. Condon. It dovetails well[18] 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.


  1. ^ Kris Bibler (Oct 4, 2010). "Avoid cross-cultural trial by fire". Business India.
  2. ^ Eleonore Breukel (November 17, 2005). "Tools to develop your employees' intercultural skills". Archived from the original on July 9, 2008.
  3. ^ Dr. Madhukar Shukla (May 2006). "Product launch: Developing cross-cultural competence". India: Human Capital Magazine. Archived from the original on February 12, 2013.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Karen Huchendorf. "Building cultural bridges-How to attain a cultural education". ExpatriateCONNECT.
  6. ^ Dean Barnlund. "Communication in a Global Village". Georgia Tech. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
  7. ^ G Adams & HR Markus (2001). "Culture As Patterns: An Alternative Approach to the Problem of Reification" (PDF). Culture and Psychology. 7 (3): 283–296. doi:10.1177/1354067X0173002. hdl:1808/463.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ WB Gudykunst & B Mody (2002). Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. SAGE. ISBN 9780761920908.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, Yoshitaka Miike, & Jing Yin (2008). The Global Intercultural Communication Reader. Routledge. p. 219. ISBN 9780415958127.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ JN Martin & TK Nakayama (2009). Intercultural Communication in Contexts (5 ed.). McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 9780073385129.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ ME Phillips & SA Sackmann (2002). "Managing in an Era of Multiple Cultures". Graziado Business Review. Pepperdine University. 5 (4).CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ DH Saphiere, BK Mikk & BI DeVries (2005). Communication Highwire: Leveraging the power of diverse communication styles. Intercultural Press. p. 24. ISBN 9781931930154.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ NA Boyacigiller, RA Goodman, ME Phillips, & JE Anderson (2003). Crossing Cultures: Insights from master teachers. Psychology Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780415308199.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. ^ HL Tosi, NP Mero & JR Rizzo (2000). Managing Organizational Behavior (4 ed.). Wiley. p. 63. ISBN 9780631212577.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  15. ^ Stella Ting-Toomey (1994). The Challenge of Facework: Cross-cultural and interpersonal issues. SUNY Press. p. 243. ISBN 9780791416341.
  16. ^ DK Deardorff (2009). The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence. SAGE. p. 224. ISBN 9781412960458.
  17. ^ "Robert Kohls; Official, Author Led Training in Overseas Life". Washington Post. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  18. ^ Dr. Alena Korshuk, Means of developing cultural awareness, national identity and intercultural communication skills (PDF), Minsk: Belarusian State University, ISSN 1392-0561, archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2012

External links[edit]