Research Paper By Tamara Lebak
(Diversity Coach, UNITED STATES)
In coming years, the ability to deal constructively on an interpersonal level with cultural diversity and the multitude of attitudes and values will not only become a key qualification required of business executives working in international settings, it will also be required generally of each individual as a key factor for ensuring that cultural diversity can be experienced positively and
productively. Bertelsmann Stiftung
The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is a statistically reliable, cross-culturally valid measure of intercultural competence adapted from the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (also called the Bennett scale.) The scale sheds light on how individuals respond to cultural difference. The IDI assesses the response to obvious cultural differences (e.g. country, ethnicity, and language), as well as subtle cultural differences found beneath the context of one’s broader culture (e.g. patterns of handling emotions, conflict style, definitions of respect and power). Coaching using the IDI helps focus a client on how they experience difference and is a developmental model that can assist a client in becoming more effective in the world by narrowing the gap between intent and impact as well as increasing their capacity to experience difference in the future.
What is Culture?
In 1976, Edward T. Hall developed a model for understanding implicit and explicit or conscious and unconscious culture. Hall envisioned culture as an iceberg with explicit and visible behavior as the tip of the iceberg: food, language, skin color, clothing, etc. What lies below the surface (and ultimately what sank the Titanic!) is our implicit and unconscious culture. These are the underlying beliefs, patterns of thought, and values that dictate our behavior. This aspect of our culture must be brought to the surface in order to be able to make conscious choice about our behavior.
The IDI measures a person’s orientation toward cultural difference and commonality and can help a client reflect on his/her experiences around cultural differences and similarities. The IDI profile can help a client increase his/her own cultural self-awareness. It is this cultural self awareness of what lies “beneath the surface” that can assist a client in getting more of what they want as well as become more effective in matching their impact and their intentions.
Intercultural Competence is a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts. (Bennett J. , 2011) Intercultural Competence includes cognitive skills such as: cultural self-awareness, Culture-general knowledge, culture-specific knowledge, and Interaction analysis. Intercultural Competency requires affective skills such as curiosity, cognitive flexibility, motivation and open mindedness. Behavioral skills which affect cultural competency are patience, empathy, listening, problem solving, and information gathering skills.
What is the Intercultural Development Inventory?
The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) was developed based on the Developmental Model of Cultural Sensitivity (DMIS) originally created by Milton Bennett. The IDI identifies specific developmental orientations placing subjects on a continuum from mono-cultural to more intercultural mindsets. “This Continuum indicates that individuals who have a more intercultural mindset have a greater capability for responding effectively to cultural differences and recognizing and building upon true commonalities.” That is to say that effectiveness in achieving goals is better served when differences are understood, commonalities are recognized, and this information is used in order to make informed, intentional, and culturally appropriate responses to facilitate meaning and personal growth.
Those with monocultural mindsets use their own cultural values and practices, stereotypes, and as the lens with which to make meaning from cultural difference and are less capable of incorporating complexity and ambiguity. Those with intercultural or global mindsets are ethno-relative in making meaning of cultural difference and are able to support more complex perceptions and experiences of cultural difference.
People in the denial orientation do not recognize the existence of cultural differences. They are completely ethnocentric in that they believe there is a correct type of living (theirs), and that those who behave differently simply don’t know any better. In this phase, people are prone to imposing their value system upon others, believing that they are “right” and that others who are different are “confused.” They are not threatened by cultural differences because they refuse to accept them. Generally, those who experience cultural denial have not had extensive contact with people different from themselves, and thus have no experiential basis for believing in other cultures. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
Those in the defense orientation are no longer blissfully ignorant of other cultures; they recognize the existence of other cultures, but not their validity. They feel threatened by the presence of other ways of thinking, and thus denigrate them in an effort to assert the superiority of their own culture. Differences are seen as problems to be overcome, and there is a dualistic “us vs. them” mentality. Whereas those in the denial orientation are unthreatened by the presence of other cultural value systems those in the defense orientation feel threatened by “competing” cultures. People in the defense orientation tend to surround themselves with members of their own culture, and avoid contact with members from other cultures. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
People in the minimization orientation of ethnocentrism are still threatened by cultural differences, and therefore try to minimize them by telling themselves that people are more similar than dissimilar. No longer do they see those from other cultures as being misguided, inferior, or unfortunate. They still have not developed cultural self-awareness, and are insistent about getting along with everyone. Because they assume that all cultures are fundamentally similar, people in this orientation fail to tailor their approaches to a cultural context. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
In this first orientation of ethnorelativism, people begin not only to recognize other cultures but to accept them as viable alternatives to their own worldview. They know that people are genuinely different from them, and accept the inevitability of other value systems and behavioral norms. They do not yet adapt their own behavior to the cultural context, but they no longer see other cultures as threatening, wrong, or inferior. People in the acceptance phase can be thought of as “culture-neutral,” seeing differences as neither good nor bad, but rather as a fact of life. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
During the adaptation phase, people begin to view cultural differences as a valuable resource, and thus relish the differences. Because differences are seen as positive, people consciously adapt their behaviors to the different cultural norms of their environment. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
Integration is the last orientation in one’s journey away from ethnocentrism. In this orientation, people accept that their identity is not based in any single culture. Once integrated, people can effortlessly and even unconsciously shift between worldviews and cultural frames of reference. Though they maintain their own cultural identity, they naturally integrate aspects of other cultures into it. (Bennett M. J., 2004)
The IDI profile presents not only an orientation placement on the developmental scale but has also statistically calculated a perceived versus an actual or developmental orientation. The perceived orientation indicates a client’s self perception of how they encounter difference while the developmental score is an actual assessment of how effective a client is at encountering difference. The orientation gap is then calculated to determine if the client overestimates or underestimates their ability to effectively encounter difference.
The IDI also measures Trailing Orientations which are those orientations which have not been fully resolved and so will be used by a client to make sense of cultural differences at particular times, around certain topics or in specific situations especially under stress. (Hammer, 2003)
How Does the IDI Enhance Diversity Coaching Practice?
The IDI provides a statistically valid assessment of how a client experiences difference. In coaching, understanding a client’s orientation on the DMIS as determined by the IDI can assist a coach to better support the client to become more effective in dealing with difference and change. Milton Bennett in his development of the DMIS also determined appropriate interventions in order to help someone move from one stage to the next. Appropriate interventions are key in order to be effective. Intervening at a developmentally inappropriate level will confuse or disinterest a client. Interventions are summarized below.
The IDI also provides a Personalized Development Plan (PDP) that a coach and client can use in order to shape a clients goals and learning. Coaches and clients can work together to create a plan that supports the client’s learning based on their orientation. Perceived gap scores can assist in supporting a client to become more effective in communicating and achieving their goals.
What is the IDI Idividual Development Plan (IDP)?
Each IDI comes with a Individual Development Plan (IDP) specific to that clients orientation results. The IDP assists clients and coaches in determining key goals and progress indicators important to the client, intercultural stress points where a client is more likely to be challenged personally, socially or at work. Each IDP identifies strengths of the Developmental Orientation as well as the developmental opportunities. Specific suggestions of activities that are developmentally appropriate are included in the IDP so that coach and client can create opportunities for growth.
What are the broader applications of the IDI and the IDP to coaching?
The application of the IDI and the IDP in coaching is much broader than understanding how exchange students or business professionals will succeed in multicultural work environments. The IDI and the IDP are effective in assisting caches and their clients to better understand their own culture as well as the culture of their marriage, their family, their workplace, their working group, their neighborhood, their community, even their coaching relationship. In order to be effective change agents for themselves and in a system, clients benefit from understanding how they encounter difference and how to more effectively engage with difference by having tools in their toolkit to do so. The IDI and the IDP do just that.
The Intercultural Development Inventory and its Development Plan are effective coaching tools. The frame presented by the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity is non-threatening and supportive as a frame to understand how individuals encounter difference. Because of its broad application possibilities, coaches can use specific and far reaching definitions of culture to enhance a clients understanding of their orientation to difference. Becoming more aware of that orientation and being offered developmentally appropriate interventions helps coaches and clients develop their orientation along the continuum. In this increasingly global climate, how individuals encounter difference can affect how business leaders successfully lead companies, whether marriages stay together, how effective clients can be in the workplace and socially.
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