Debriefing Cultural Mind Maps

Posted On: August 9, 2015

The first tip in a series of tips on How to Broach Delicate Topics is to:  
Have the person identify their impressions about cultural practices from the country in question. 


Debriefing Cultural Mind Maps: National Cultures

Have your conversational partner or training attendees brainstorm all the impressions of the country they are going to. They can identify stereotypes, cultural practices, holidays, dressing styles, food habits, mannerisms, body language, family structure, or anything else they know or think they know about the new country and culture. As the expert of the culture, address as many issues as possible that have been bought out. If any delicate topics (such as hygiene, sexual harassment, racism or others) have not been touched on by your conversational partner or trainees, find creative ways to broach the topics by related topics they have already mentioned.


Conversely, the discussion can be narrowed from the start by choosing a broad topic related to the delicate topic. Some examples:

“Let’s discus all you know about American professional appearance.” – The facilitator can discuss the relevance of the ideas in relation to their professional environment in the US.
“List out all words you have heard that refer to cultures, races or religions.” – The facilitator can then discuss how many of these terms are avoided in the US office, and at times can also land someone in legal hot water if used. The facilitator should be specific about the words to avoid, and even point to the company Human Resource (HR) policy when applicable.


In this way the delicate topic (ex. hygiene) is not highlighted prominently and given as part of many other cultural tidbits and etiquette tips. It can also be mentioned that use of local behaviors abroad in that particular country can help the locals relate to you better which helps create a better impression.



Debriefing Cultural Mind Maps: Corporate and Team Cultures

Additionally, I have used these mindmaps to broach the topic of team cultures within an organization as the one which is the feature photo of this post. The branches of that mind map were generic. However, we spent time debriefing each area, comparing and contrasting to other teams in the organization or teams they have worked in other companies and/or industries.


Based on the outcomes of these discussions, we could highlight what were the desired elements of team culture they wanted to continue/implement/discontinue in their team, and then we created coaching programs around this.


End of Tip #1.

<— See list of all tips.

Tip 2: Cross-Cultural Mistakes and Errors –>

For your individuals and teams preparing for international assignments, Jennifer Kumar offers global diversity and inclusion training for international business and career success.


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