It always surprises me when a creative thing or service is produced in my company: the energy that comes with it for me. It’s nice to be creative! Today we almost finished a new training card game (in Dutch, De Karavaan en de Kamelen – see also the YouTube about it), to be sold in our webshop www.diversityshop.nl and also to be applied in training with our customers. The designer sent me a few images that we can use for the promotion of this card game. Just to see that and place it in webshops and on twitter makes me so happy!
Sometimes I think it is the tangible side of products like a game, a story. You can show it to others and explain ‘there it is’ or ‘there you can read it’. In consultancy for example, this is hardly possible. I never forget the comments of my brother-in-law who said ‘at the end of the day I made a railway but what did you do, I don’t understand’. I see his point of view but I also know that making railways would never give me the boost of energy that games, stories, books and other creative activities give me. De Karavaan en de Kamelen: even the idea of it didn’t exist at all and now it exists and it will start a life of its own. I love it; this is so nice 🙂 …
By now I have given 2 workshops on culture and diversity for the management team of the Stephanos Foundation. Beforehand I was wondering whether it would be possible to be of any benefit, as my knowledge about Malawi and Africa in general seemed to be low. Wasn’t it a risk to be too western in my approach, far from ‘the way we do things here’ in Malawi? But after my 2 first workshops here I can say (with some relief) that it worked out very well, also in the context of Malawi.
The awareness about culture and diversity is much bigger here than average in Europe. Most of the management team has the Malawi nationality, but they come from different tribes and have team members from various backgrounds. In workshops in for example The Netherlands, participants sometimes feel compelled to discuss the notion of culture itself: does it really matter? Aren’t we all different so what’s the point? When this occurs, it is always a participant from the ‘dominant’ group and never a member of a minority group who brings up the discussion. There is little awareness of the very existence and influence of culture and diversity – regardless whether dominant individuals find it necessary or not…
Here in Malawi I meet with strong curiosity to learn more and know how it works and what a manager can do to make it work so that diverse talents are used for the job. Exercises from The Champagne Pool (see www.diversityshop.eu) passed without any problem: be it informal rules of the organisation, what is my culture or the five dimensions of culture from Hofstede – it all suited Malawi and Stephanos reality. Also the Makeda game gave a lot of food for thought.
The fact that the Makeda game bears the name of the Ethiopean Queen of Sheba however did not seem to interest anyone. People are very practical here and not too nationalistic. Does training material come from America, Europe, Asia or Africa? No point as long as it works in the local context. In terms of Hofstede, there is a low uncertainty avoidance (low on ‘what is different is dangerous’, difference did not scare these managers off). And there is a good sense of humour, which is always nice to have. This makes me look forward to the other 2 workshops to come.
Today in a workshop we played our cultural game ‘the way we do things here’ with a mixed group of workers in youth care, pedagogic teachers and policy makers. By playing that game, participants experienced how cultural differences work out in cooperation and communication. That experience is the basis for the insights and tools we work on afterwards. Participants rarely forget what happened, even after years, and usually like the lessons learned.
During the many years that we have used this game it is worth a study how groups react to cultural confusion. The group today was not just a group experienced in social issues, they were also located in the very south of the Netherlands which – if I may say so, hoping not to upset anybody in the north – means often a nice atmosphere full of fun. And fun they had indeed: the confrontation with cultural differences meant laughing laughing and laughing to them. In other groups it happened to us that we had to bring back damaged game materials because the participants got angry and started to fight about it. No such thing today! Most problems were solved in an efficient way.
These participants were not perfect, f.ex. there was rather a lack of strategy among them. They understood what diversity competence could mean for their operational work, for the relations the workers have with clients from all different cultures and the quality of services offered. But the organisational level was more remote for them although they need the support of their management!
Nevertheless in a world full of conflicts about cultural differences, it is great to have moments where people enjoy dealing with them; there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, and I definitely prefer laughing…