SESSION TOPIC: OS for Participants of Blended Cultures

Host: Susan K. Hughes

Scribe/note taker: Susan K. Hughes

Participants: Linda Ximenes

Susan Hughes

Shelia Isakson

Discussion Highlights: The title of this session should probably have been "Reaching the goal of creating a blended culture."

Important variables include the size of group, the particular individuals attending, awareness of the social norms, the quality and quantity of personal investment of the participants in the project/issue/process/outcomes.

The difference in social norms points to important advantages of "the principles" and "The Law of Mobility." A careful explication of these may break down some of the barriers to communication among people of different cultures. These are not the rules that normally apply and are, therefore, likely to take people outside their comfort zones. It is OK to be uncomfortable. It is OK to do these things. OS is a technique new to many people--create a space for new things to happen.

Many pieces factor into such a situation: trust, background, assumptions. Linda referred to the book "Change the way you talk and you change the way you work" (Peter Seng?)...particularly the deconstructive principle, e.g., "the other person might be right." Shelia joined us and suggested the technique of dividing a piece of paper with a line and on one half scripting the dialog and on the other side "translating" the unspoken meaning of the words said as a way to expose potential miscommunications/misunderstandings/skepticisms/etc. Another technique is to issue participants three cards -- yellow, red, and green. When there is hesitation or uncertainty, a participant may expose the yellow card; the red card is a major problem flag; green indicates confident understanding/comprehension.

Recommendations: Ask the asssertive to hold back and encourage the assertive to stretch.

Being passionate isn't sufficient.

Take responsibility for your learning.

If translation is required, here are some options: --use headphones and have a translator in each area and especially for the opening --employ a buddy system and ensure that there is always someone willing to translate available --be sure to post some sessions in the "second" language --a major problem with translation is that it eats up time and can interrupt the flow of conversation

It is important that people are convinced that different people are different. Must have a conversation about what it means to be respectful. Invest time in understanding cultural variables. Assume that there has been a communication SNAFU, before jumping to other conclusions. Problems are usually people to people and not cultural. People must be willing to adjust communication styles. No cheap shots allowed.

In the particular situation Susan presented regarding a board that needs to refocus and repurpose, probably the most imporant questions are: Given that everyone can do something, what do YOU WANT to do and what are YOU WILLING to do? Invest time in role clarification, be clear about commitments, and understand the risks.

Powerful quotes: Recognize that you will probably never get everyone on the same page.

Doing board development is difficult.

Unanswered questions: How can you assess different levels of interest and commitment? How can you determine the differences in the type and depth of investment various people have?