What are they saying about diversophy®?
Des outils magiques et professionnels de formation pour comprendre les peuples, interagir dans un environnement international ou faire des affaires
diversophy® is a collection of card games for use in intercultural facilitation and training. Beyond the simple avoidance of intercultural gaffes, the card games help users to understand cultural attitudes and differences in order to deal with them constructively. It is not enough to speak the foreign language of a foreign country, one must know how to use it in a culturally appropriate way!
Versions of diversophy® games are available by country, language, and theme, with well over 70 products being offered.
A small plastic box, multicolored cards, and 3 colored dice make up the each product package.
Here is an extract from the PDF diversophy® Guide for trainers and facilitators:
The diversophy® training tool is designed to develop the cultural competence of your organization as well as that of those who work in it. diversophy® will enhance the ability to communicate and work productively across differences for all who experience it.
The game will allow participants to move from a state of ETHNOCENTRISM (isolation in one's own culture with no real interest or awareness of the existence and value of other cultures) to a state of DIVERSOPHICATION (a higher level of cultural sensitivity and knowledge).
At a deeper level, it explores the "intercultural evolution" of the individual in a way that helps them to understand the process and the goal to be reached. Note that tools like diversophy®, focused on achieving this are rare on the market.
It is also important to understand that the catch-all term "intercultural" can be expressed in a variety of its dimensions, such as "multicultural", "cross-cultural", "and intercultural". diversophy® addresses all three perspectives!
HOW TO PLAY
Rules about how to play the game are provided in a bref format and included as a card in each game box (more details are found in the PDF). There iare also cards with information about the creator of the game anda set of questions useful for debriefing the game.
Let's be clear, the game aspect (quiz) is not the most important feature of diversophy®. The key element is the content of the cards, the rice and concise text chiseled by goldsmiths of the intercultural. Here, each word counts and carries its weight. No verbiage, the style is telegraphic but avoids ambiguities and waste of time. Each (short) question will trigger a questioning and a deep reflection in the participants (except for some of the cards which are simple question-and answer quizzes). This aspect demonstrates the strong impact of the questions. It is important to underscore that the explanations and examples provided go beyond the usual, well-known stereotypes.
The tool is very professional, the questions are not there simply to have fun but to make people react, to inform them, and to shake up their minds. The questions are created by native speakers from all over the world, experts in intercultural issues, with rich and often surprising backgrounds. Searching for the right questions to trigger reaction and reflection, a task that is not at all easy, requires a rare level of experience and background. This precision and careful content selection are what make diversophy® so rich, despite its modest packaging.
Another strong point is that the individual card system allows you to build a personalized session with your own card choices and procedures according to the needs of your audience.
I can only encourage you to take the time to meet around one of these games!
diversophy® est une gamme de jeux de cartes à utiliser dans une animation ou une formation interculturelle. Au delà du simple anti-gaffe interculturel, les packs de cartes permettent de comprendre les attitudes et différences culturelles pour y faire face. Il ne suffit pas en effet de parler la langue étrangère du pays, il faut en connaître son mode d’emploi, l’interculturel!
Les versions se déclinent par pays, langues et thèmes avec plus de 70 produits à l’affiche.
Une boite plastique de taille modeste, des cartes multicolores et 3 dés couleurs constituent l’ensemble d’un produit ou pack.
Extrait du PDF diversophy® Guide à l’usage des formateurs et animateurs:
L’outil de formation diversophy® est destiné à développer les compétencesd’ordre culturel de votre organisme ainsi que de ceux qui y travaillent. diversophy® renforcera les capacités à communiquer et à travailler de manièreproductive de tous ceux qui l’expérimenteront, et ce au-delà des différences.
Le jeu permettra aux participants de passer d’un état d’ETHNOCENTRISME (l’isolement dans sa propre culture sans réel intérêt ou prise de conscience de l’existence et de la valeur d’autres cultures) à un état de DIVERSOPHICATION (niveau de sensibilité culturelle et de connaissance élevé).
Pour approfondir le concept, une étude sur « l’évolution interculturelle » de l’individu qui permet de comprendre le processus et l’objectif à atteindre. Notons que les outils comme diversophy® pour y parvenir sont rarissimes sur le marché.
Comprendre aussi que l’appellation fourre-tout française « interculturelle » se décline autrement comme dans « multicultural », « cross-cultural », « and intercultural ». diversophy® répond dans tous les cas aux trois approches!
Une règle de jeu est fournie dans un format minimaliste puisqu’elle est incluse dans la boite sous forme de cartes (plus de détails dans le PDF). On y trouve aussi une présentation du créateur et des questions pour un « debrief ».
Disons-le tout de suite, l’aspect jeu (quiz) n’est pas le plus important car l’essentiel est le contenu des cartes au texte concis mais ciselé par des orfèvres de l’interculturel. Ici chaque mot compte et pèse son poids. Pas de verbiage, le style est télégraphique mais permet d’éviter les ambiguïtés et une perte de temps. Chaque question (courte) va déclencher chez les participants une interrogation et une réflexion profonde (sauf pour les cartes jaunes plutôt simple quiz). Cet aspect démontre l’impact fort des questions. Un point important à souligner est le dépassement des simples stéréotypes habituels et connus à l’aide des explications et exemples proposés.
L’outil est très professionnel, les questions n’étant pas là pour s’amuser mais pour faire réagir, informer et bousculer les esprits. Notons que l’écriture des questions est le travail de natifs et natives du monde entier, experts ou expertes en interculturel et aux parcours riches et étonnants. La recherche des questions justes et déclencheurs de réactions et de réflexions, tâche pas évidente du tout, demande une expérience et un « background » rares. Cette précision et sélection pointue font la richesse de diversophy® malgré son emballage modeste.
Un point fort, le système de cartes qui permet de construire une session personnalisée avec ses propres choix et règles en fonction des auditoires.
Je ne peux que vous encourager à prendre le temps vous rencontrer autour d’un jeu!
Interview of George Simons by Matthieu Tassetti of Homo Ludens. Find George's original interview 🎧 on the podcast website, 2019
George Simons permet à des personnes avec des cultures différentes de se rencontrer (Bring people together) et de se comprendre. Dans ce contexte, le jeu est un formidable outil pour amener les gens interagir entre-eux. Par l’intermédiaire du jeu, ils discutent des comportements appropriés à avoir en fonction de la culture dans laquelle on se trouve. L’objectif de l’interculturalité est donc d’apporter une meilleure compréhension de l’autre et d’effacer la peur de ce qui nous est étranger.
George Simons à travers Diversophy® crée des jeux utilisables par les facilitateurs et les formateurs pour animer des ateliers d’interculturalité. Ce sont en majorité des jeux de cartes car ils sont plus faciles à emmener. Mais il n’est pas exclu de voir la gamme proposée par Diversophy® s’enrichir de nouveaux types de jeux.
Does gaming help us to better understand the other and erase, or at least reduce the fear of what is foreign to us? In this new episode of Homo Ludens, George Simons will share his insights on the use of games in an intercultural context, gaming to facilitate the work between teams of different cultures, gaming to understand a new culture in an immigration context.
Good day to all. Today I am offering you a program in English. I welcome George Simons who will speak to us about the use of games in intercultural contexts, how games can encourage people to concentrate and learn. I wish you good listening. Hello, George Simons. Welcome to Homo Ludens, Can you tell us who you are and what you are doing?
My name is George Simons. I was born in the USA. My grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Austria. For the last 25 years I have lived in the south of France – one of the best choices I’ve ever made. What do I do for a living? I am a consultant and a trainer in the intercultural field. What is particularly engaging for me is that, for the past quarter century, I have been creating intercultural games under the label of diversophy, (wisdom about differences) focused on understanding, collaborating with and acculturating with different peoples, other habits and dissimilar ways of life. Recently I've become intensely interested in seeing how games can bring people together and resolve potential social conflicts and misunderstandings. So, that's my 82 years in short.
What are the goals of your company and of diversophy?
Basically, what we do is, work on intercultural understanding and competence. We have over 100 games, and there are games in thirteen different languages at the moment.
Could you explain to us what interculturality is?
Well, that's a good question. Basically, what we’re trying to do is create the ability for people to get to know, work with, collaborate with and become creative with people who are different from themselves. This has been a human challenge for ages, but it's particularly highlighted now given the global environment in which we work in. The fact that we are dealing with people from different cultures, not only living far away from us via the Internet or social networks, but also in everyday life. Our world is becoming more and more diverse. And, at the same time, there's a threat on the horizon, the growing fear we have of each other, which has led to a lot of populism in politics in the last several years and feels like a very dangerous tendency. So, to me, one of the missions that I have is to make these games useful for people to not only learn about each other, but connect with each other face-to-face as they play, and reduce what we would call the “us versus them” attitudes and behaviors that are so easy to come by today.
What, more precisely, is the job of the cross-cultural trainer?
Well, basically it’s a very diverse thing in itself. For example, I may be called upon to teach cross-cultural communication, negotiation, management, how to work in a global team with people from diverse backgrounds and diverse locations. So fundamentally it’s mostly classroom or training room activity. Although, some of it takes place now online, and I’m moving to some activities in that direction. But the face-to-face encounter of people and learning together is an extremely important part of what I feel that I do. I teach courses not only for private and public organizations, but I've been invited to teach in management schools and universities, and so on, exploring the process of working for interculturality and helping young people learn how to be more culturally competent as they go out into this very diverse world and workplace.
How did you come upon using games in your work?
Well it's a long story, and I generally send people to my website. There's a whole history there, but, fundamentally, it started when I was working at Oberlin College in Ohio where I was also responsible for training student staff. These were the senior students that were helping the younger students in the dormitories and residences of university. They faced various situations that they needed to learn about, find appropriate ways to intervene. So, I created a board game at that point, a game in which they would encounter those situations by landing on different spaces of the board. Then they would have to explore them and discuss them with each other and come up with good answers.
That's the dynamic that has continued to this day in the games that I create. However, we’ve left the boardgame and the games consist largely of sets of cards of five different kinds and a card selection mechanism, like dice or randomizing the cards. That was something that developed when we realized the trainers couldn't take five big-box games together in a briefcase, if they have thirty people in a training session. But they could take one box of cards that would serve thirty people. So, the design of the game been under developmental over the years.
After I was left the university, the diversity movement kept building in the USA stimulated by Workforce 2000 report at which point we created games about diverse situations in the US workplace and US culture. This resulted in the first really published box game. It was quite popular but, as I said, we ran into this problem of its too big to haul mess of them around. So, we created more versions of the games which could be played by larger groups. Today you can take one of our games and play with 4 people or you can get a version that you can use for 2000 people.
It’s been a matter of the development of the style and technique and the flexibility of the game, but, fundamentally, the idea of getting people to respond to situations and questions has been the essence of the game. We give people information about a culture to learn about and react to; we take people and we put them in situations where something positive or negative might happen in a different culture; we put people in the situations where we asked them to compare how's things are done in one culture with how they're done in their own culture; we give them situations in which they have to choose what might be the best behavior in a certain situation or context when dealing with another culture. Finally, we also have some very factual questions about different cultures, what happened in their history, their behaviors and the activities of people.
Fundamentally, we’ve created a game for people to play for about an hour or so and then discuss the results with each other in a short debriefing. But the greatest value of the game we see is not just the information they gain about different cultures but the face-to-face encounter that allows them to see each other as real people rather than “us versus them”, as I mentioned earlier.
As you said, the games enable bringing people together. Are there other interesting things about using games in the cross-cultural context?
Well, first of all, you know that the benefit of using games is that games provide us with an artificial world, created by the rules of the game, the boundaries of the game. It’s like going to another place in which your old everyday rules may not apply, and you are given the opportunity to risk new behaviors, to try new ideas, to interact in different ways. So, first and formost the important thing I find about the games is that they let you be in another world where you can interact more freely with each other and in what you do. That has some real benefits in the sense that what it does is allows us to learn more, simply because new things will strike us more effectively.
The element of chance – we roll dice and draw our cards – inspires us to have a higher level of receptivity and the higher level of awareness when we are playing a game. Often the playing of the game also asks us to imitate, or mime, or step into someone else's shoes and behave as someone else would, so we’re allowed to try out new behaviors that way. Sometimes games also will help us to feel different physically – they move us around. We get new behaviors that we’re allowed to try, so our old patterns get disrupted and we experience some new things in the process. There is lots of study about games all the way back to the book Homo Ludens (now the name of your podcast series) where we identify the fact that play is a very important part of learning not just for children, but for adults as well. What people do in games is often remembered far better, and relationships of people create in games often break through the boundaries that have restricted them somewhere in the past.
Are there cultures which are more willing to use games at work in a professional context?
Yes, there are. Although what we’re seeing is almost a worldwide adoption of games, labelled “serious gaming”, for what's going on both in business and in the workplace around games. Now people find that they’re getting much more accustomed to games. When I started out, it was very clear that gaming seemed to be “that’s play, that's not work”. Now what we’re discovering is that the best kind of work is work towards which we have an attitude of play. Frequently the games that are used in the workplace, in the marketplace and so on, are much more effective than the traditional kind of learning or communication that we’ve had. The games that we play open doors to new things. I've encountered cultures where people are still literally say about games, “These are not very serious”.
I've also encountered cultures where sometimes gaming is not only not seen seriously, but games of chance, just rolling dice in certain groups for religious or philosophical reasons may be avoided as something evil or something that one should not engage in. There will be rules or there will be cultural values, conscious or unconscious, in which people will find that they are more or less resistant to games. Cultures may thus vary in whether they'll play games, how long they'll play games, how sincerely they’ll play games, how much they will get into it. A number of other factors can also appear as people experience games and their values come to the foreground. As I said, one of the great things about games is that they do challenge values because they put us in this artificial world where we just say, “Okay those are the rules of another world than the one you live in. These are the rules of the game. Let's play by the rules of the game and see what we get”.
You are using mostly cards. Would you like to try also other kinds of games?
I have a lot of activities that I use. Some of them that could be called games, and some of them = are just activities. Our cards actually instigate activities on the part of the players. However, I'm seeing lots of games that address issues in real life that are boardgames or are online games, for example. I have not ventured very deeply into online games though I have the possibility of doing my games online. Mostly this is because I’ve found that, with my limited resources, the most important thing that I can do is to get people together to play face-to-face. Now as technology advances you can also do things face-to-face, just like we’re having this conversation now as if it was face-to-face online. I'm exploring how that sort of thing may be done with the content of and focus on the issues and values that I've been trying to put into our diversophy games over the years.
When it comes to intercultural training – yes, there are lots of games that people can use, and people can invent their own games, you know. One of the games that, for example, that I've used in a group of people goes like this: I have a set of labels that are on rubber bands that each person can put on their head. On the label is the name of the kind of person they are, e.g., their nationality, their ethnicity, their occupation or something of that sort. The people also have a little piece of paper on their back. The players mingle about and look at each other's labels and write on the paper on the person’s back their automatic impressions of such a person, what they feel, their stereotypes about them and so on. The people don't know who they are, as they haven't seen the label that’s on their forehead. A group will do this for ten or fifteen minutes. After this they sit down and they take their paper off their back and read what other people think of them, what other people’s stereotypes of them are, and then they try to guess their own identity. I found that this game is incredibly interesting because people almost always do discover their identity. The lesson that's involved in that, of course, is that stereotypes are so strong and so widespread that we participate in them very unknowingly, and this brings that realization that, “Wow, how much do I stereotype people before really getting to know them”.
That's one example of another game that I've used in intercultural training and diversity training in the past. There are dozens of them. I collected them at one point with several other people in a book of 50 exercises. Most of them could be described as games for intercultural learning. And about two years ago or three years ago another group of people did the same thing. There's a lot of tools out there, and people can become creative about it. In this last meeting that we had with the SIETAR (Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research) Congress that we held in Belgium in Leuven, we had a 2-day gamification course and it wound up with people forming small groups for the creation of new games that they felt would be useful. Thus far in the follow-up, one of the groups conducted a game for about a week about saying “no” in different cultures. I expect it will be going on forward with other kinds of exploration from these groups. It's a little slow at the moment because it's summertime in Europe. On July and August we just sit at home and sweat. I'm so happy that this is a wonderful just voice experience between you and me, because I'm sitting here in my T-shirt and shorts because it's so hot here in the south of France! Luckily no images.
You’re using games in Cross-cultural workshops. Can you tell us a bit more about what goes on before and after the game?
There's two ways to go about this. One is that the games that we create can be played by people anywhere at any time. All I need is the materials and the facilitator guide. However, when I do workshops, the design then incorporates the games for specific learning objectives of the organization, or the company, or the group that I'm working with.
For example, about 2 years ago a French company was sold to a US American company. The French company had offices in various places in France, in Brazil, and so on. We created a course about working with US Americans for the HR people and the managers of the French company that was being sold to the US company. In the process of that then we explored the values, the stories, the behaviors, and so on, that differ between the French organization and the US organization and played a game on US culture with the French participants. This was one of our diversophy games.
What happens in the culture and what happens in the workshop is that we come to the point where we want to explore on a very practical basis what happens between people so we spend a little time familiarizing people with the game with a short, ten-minute introduction about how to play it. Then people play for forty or fifty minutes, or even up to an hour and a quarter usually. T|hen we will have a debrief about what they learned and what they want to apply, and so on and so forth. The game both helps people to apply what they've been learning throughout the day, as well as raises questions about what they want to learn next or what they need to improve in their perception of the other culture and how they are going to interact with it.
I currently have a client who was involved in the Belt and Road project in China, and they're very interested in training Chinese managers, and enterprises, and workers in cultures around the world where the Belt and Road project will move, as China seeks to go westward into Europe and Africa with their plans for this marketing and development effort. We see a significant role for the games that we have and of course significant challenge in the defining and translating the materials needed for people to play these games in various cultures, if it's integrated into the kind of work we do in cross-cultural training.
What advice could you give to someone who wants to use games in the cross-cultural context?
Good question. I teach a facilitation course in the universities. I have two universities or partners working with me in the development of games. One has developed three games and another one is on its fourth game. Basically, knowing how to facilitate can be helpful as far as our games are concerned, but what a person should do is try the game in a safe context and see what their role will be. Most of the time the people who lead games are basically facilitators and that's an important thing to remember. We have a good facilitator guide for our games and most games come with instructions about how to use them and how to apply them, if you're using them in teaching or some other kind of environment. An important thing is that a facilitator is a person who does exactly that – makes it easy for people to play, makes the game go smoothly. I know some people are afraid of leading games, especially games like the ones that have lots of information in them. They don't need to be the experts on the information. What they need to do is be the people who can help people explore, play, connect with each other and make sure that the rules of the game which enable people to do that are well observed.
I guess the first thing I’d like to say is, don't be afraid of games, you don't have to be a master gamer of any sort, you just need to be a good teacher or facilitator when you use the games. There are enormous numbers of games to choose from. One just has to go online to see the various websites of gaming, all kinds of stuff and how to use them. It depends on your learning objectives. For most of our games, for example, we have about two hundred to two hundred-fifty cards which cannot all be played in 40 minutes, so I encourage the people who are training to make sure that they pick out the information they want to use from these card sets, that which really suits their learning objectives. They need to know what is it that they're trying to have the people in their group experience, learn, exchange, discuss with each other. I guess number one advice is don't be afraid to use games, number two is to make sure that you pick games that will support the learning objectives that you have for your group, or your group has for itself, or your client has for the situation.
We have arrived at the end of this episode. Do you want to add something that we may have forgotten to mention?
Yes, what I'd really just like to add is encouragement to be creative, encouragement to take risks, find like-minded people with whom you can explore new ideas, make your organization or your part in it the kind of place where new ideas, and creative exercises, and activities can address issues, tasks, challenges that you're facing in new and fresh ways. This is basically what gaming does, and I think from an intercultural point of view I realize that we have constructed worldviews, meta-recits as it is called in French sociology, metanarratives that we live by, that we take as our reality, and we don't realize that these have been socially constructed. Gaming and playing is a way for us to not only see the limits of our worldviews of these metanarratives, but helps us to change them, correct them, create new ones. That's the real challenge going forward in a world where we see the politics, and competition, and all kinds of issues that are painful to our humanity. It’s time to do something about that.
Well. that's my sermon for this interview and I'm hoping that people will take their time. You need time to play, in other words, you need to stop doing some of the things you're doing, give yourself some empty space to play and use that to become creative. Unfortunately, most people or a lot of people are really trying to do their job. They “put their nose to the grindstone”, as we say in English, and keep working on and on don't have the leisure, or don't take the leisure, to follow other instincts that will come to the fore if you take time to be quiet by yourself or in fun company from time to time. For those who are the workaholics of the world – gaming, and thinking about gaming, and using games is the part of the therapy for that.
Great thank you. Two last questions. Which game would you like to recommend to us?
Well, my own game, of course, and our most popular version of that game which exists in about six or seven languages now and is called diversophy Cultural Competence. It's the basic game for getting to know yourself, what are the ways to know yourself, what are the ways to know others, what are the things that will get you from being scared and in your shell to being curious and taking in lots of the richness and possibilities that exist in the world around you. If there's any one game I like to recommend that I like to start with, it is that one, and then you can have all the rest you want. I think is the ground and the groundbreaking part of our work with intercultural gaming. There's lots of stuff out there. Be curious, find what you can. That's the starting point I would recommend.
Finally, if we want to know a bit more about you, diversophy, or using games used in cross-cultural context, where can we find more information?
First of all, just go to our website, www.diversophy.com – that's DIVERS, like people who jump in the water, and OPHY, like the end of philosophy– diversophy. There you will find all our games along with the background and the history and lots of other resources that will help you in intercultural work. And, of course, anybody who wants to reach me can also just write to the email@example.com, and I faithfully answer my mail.
Okay, thank you very much, George Simons.
Thank you, Matthieu.
Where to start? "Know thyself"
Article by Katrin Volt, diversophy® collaborator, 2016
Enculturation is a steep learning curve. As an expat woman like me, you may have or be seeking a successful career abroad, or you may have followed your partner to a strange land, hoping to establish your own goals and professional or personal agenda. Please join me as I share some learning experiences that have helped me to understand new surroundings and have given me a basis for enjoying my life as an expat.
Mentality has a huge impact in our life and on experience abroad, so what I tend to make of my expatriate life really does matter. The most beneficial thing I have learned was how to be observant, put myself in the other person’s shoes as well as come to see that the differences I and others carry can make for an interesting mix. It is all too easy to judge, to jump to unwarranted conclusions if I can only see the world as I see it and not as others see it. Judging and generalizing easily lead me to become discouraged by differences, so that I end up cocooning with familiar people and surroundings, encapsulating myself from the local way of life. However, because it is normal to feel disoriented in a new environment, I need to remind myself that anything that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
Where to start? “Know thyself.” For cultural learning to take place, I first need to know my own culture. What is it helping me to do and what is it keeping me from doing in my new environment? How does my cultural baggage affect how I feel and speak or deal with others? Being abroad brings me face-to-face with who I am and how I behave—especially when I don’t “get it right” and my best efforts fall short. Under stress, I am challenged to keep an open mind, to observe as well as ask good wh-questions, exactly the opposite of what I am most tempted to do—be upset with and blame my hosts and their world.
So, being an expat woman in France invited me to take a good look at my own culture. It asked me to ask myself about the core values I carry as an Estonian woman. How, with experience, could I make myself to home in a new environment? Despite a degree in intercultural studies, I now had to face for real my desired challenge of becoming a successful intercultural go-between for others.
Fortunately, I have had an avenue to explore and clarify my cultural endowment. Over the past year and a half I have had the opportunity to both research my background and explore my daily experience abroad in a project to create diversophy® Estonia. This is a learning game, part of a series of intercultural tools on how to work and socialize successfully with others, in this case with Estonians like myself. It was a way of telling others about me and asking them about how we differ. It was scary—was I getting it right? It was satisfying—I was learning and sharing.
Now I am hooked—I want to go deeper. My next project, now underway, is researching Estonian values as Estonians see them in order to develop a training tool for the Cultural Detective® Estonia, an effective series of tools that looks at and uses core values for building bridges across differences. As expatriate women we are all cultural detectives looking for clues to unravel the challenges we face and make sense of the stories we have to tell in search of more happy endings. My project involves interviewing people to uncover how values are implicated in stories they have to tell and then turning them into critical incidents that others can analyze and learn from. (If you have stories to tell, please get in touch—I’d love to hear and share them.)
Moving abroad? Congratulations! What an exciting opportunity—there are so many new things to learn and do if you and I are curious and open to those changes. For example, attitudes toward time: does a 9am appointment mean 9am, 8.50, any time between 9.30 and 10am, etc.? How close is “in your face”? Will I explore these differences, or will I just let them annoy me?
If you happen to be a single woman like me, you may experience risky situations related to your singledom and the downsides of being seen as the “weaker, more vulnerable sex.” Self-doubting questions such as, who can I trust and turn to in face of problems, what is appropriate behavior in a meeting or social situation in this country, what do they really mean it when they say “Come and see us soon?” or, if they say, “It’s an interesting idea,” is it what they mean or do they actually find it annoying? Finding the best way to give feedback can be puzzling to many.
I would like to recommend diversophy® (wisdom about differences)—not just because I am the creator of a game, but because it is an intercultural learning tool that immerses you in the cultural context you want to learn about. There are more than 30 specific cultures covered, plus general topics such as Cultural Competence–about the skills that are needed to work and live successfully across cultures, etc. These are handy tools that help bridge our own culture to that of others as well as provide a mirror to our “souls”.
This learning tool poses real life situations in a safe environment and participants learn through sharing and analyzing. The tool also helps create empathy and tolerance for each other’s differences and those posed by the culture under study. For example, when we say “no” do we actually mean “no” or just say it out of politeness, expecting the other person to repeat the request? When we don’t respond to a fact and remain silent, are we in agreement or in disagreement?
I often feel like a child – scared, fascinated, or happy in face of myriad of possibilities that expatriate life offers. I think even as adults, we are still children deep inside. As children learn best through play, so do adults. The power and the joy of learning through games derive from the presence of four elements of play that occur naturally in almost all cultures.
AGON the classical Greek root of our word “agony” — how we feel when giving our best effort, struggling against the odds, entering the “home stretch,” or "hitting the wall."
ALEA the sense of unpredictability, chance, not knowing what will happen next — "the luck of the draw," “the roll of the dice.” (Alea was the Roman word for a game of dice.)
VERTIGO disorienting the mind & senses, "topsy-turvy," losing the normal frame of reference, our customary bearings.
MIMOS miming, imitation, entering another's reality, playing a new role, "walking a mile in someone else's shoes."
diversophy® is a collection of factoids, critical choices, risks, wisdom and reflective questions played by anywhere from three to eight people around a table taking turns, picking up a card and facing the challenge, as in life, to whatever has come their way. The color-coded card categories are named to fit each challenge: diversiSMARTS cards test one’s factual knowledge about a culture, diversiCHOICE ask us to choose appropriate behavior in our new cultural setting, while diversiRISK cards subject us to surprise happenings in an unfamiliar context, some positive surprises, and others disappointing results from our behavior or mere presence in alien surroundings. diversiGUIDE cards give us wisdom from the new culture itself and from those who have fathomed it well, while diversiSHARE cards ask us to compare the new culture and approaches to everyday human situations with what we were raised to believe or do.
Developing diversophy® (wisdom about differences) in a playful way can save us some stink and mess as we try to cope with work and life away from home. Let’s play! Here is a sample selection of cards that you can experiment with.
Embracing interpersonal interaction and dialogue through game play as a means to develop empathy
Article by Nghi Dang, diversophy® collaborator, 2016
"Our Migrant diversophy® game celebrates the present and future human diversity within Finland. We embrace interpersonal interaction and dialogue through game play as a means to develop empathy between different peoples residing in Finland. By different, we mean all people and all ethnicities in Finland, including ethnic Finns and Swedish-Finns, Roma, Sami, and also past, present and future immigrants and their families, as well as those who are visiting from outside of Finland as students or professionals." – Steven Crawford, Senior Lecturer in Cross-cultural Management in JAMK University of Applied Sciences (JAMK UAS), Jyväskylä, Finland.
Steve was one of two lecturers in JAMK UAS, who started "planting" this idea into our diversophy® product. I remembered the story shared by Steve, how it all started at the beginning, and if I recall it correctly, it involved a sentence Steve said to Ronan Browne – the other lecture – "Let's pack a van and go to refugee reception center!"
I was luckily to be involved with this project, at the very beginning, when we all started building up from the scratch. I stepped into the project on behalf of George Simons, as his "physical" representative in Finland. The project followed on the JAMK United for Refugees (JUR) project in fall 2015. At the time, the student team did successful job creating awareness to various local stakeholders (University faculty and staff, foreign and Finnish students, local immigrants and asylum seekers of diverse origins, local NGOs, and notable global Interculturalists). This time, they aimed at researching and developing a training tool that will create personal connections and build cultural bridges between migrants and host citizens in Finland, partnering with the diversophy® brand.
The idea of inviting George Simons International and the diversophy® game approach into the project enables us to have an effective training tool in a card-based game format. The diversophy® series of training games has been available in various contexts, and is designed to enhance cultural competence through acquisition of cultural knowledge, understanding, and interaction with others. diversophy® games allow participants to communicate and share thoughts and opinions about other's cultures in a safe environment. Playing a serious game is certainly fun, but it is also a rich learning process.
Our game's purpose and the JUR project's goal are a natural fit. With this goal in mind we have been collaborating in a hard-working process, identifying relevant cards that introduce both Finnish culture and the migrant experience. The game will juxtapose three language versions, English, Finnish and Arabic.
The team is a consists of a group of lecturers and students, of mixed of nationalities and backgrounds, who all wish to make a positive difference in society. Our journey has just started, but we are pleased to inform you sample cards will be available soon (so you can have a peek!).
A game with purpose.
From medias - archive, 1993-1995
"Better Than Trivial Pursuitm", The Journal of Workforce Diversity
Are you looking for a non-threatening training tool to help your employees discover important cultural differences and develop awareness? Look no further than "The Gender Deck: Issues of Gender, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Orientation in the Workplace," which is designed for use with the original DIVERSOPHY, an experiential training tool produced by MULTUS Inc.
The Gender Deck contains four learning experiences to:
- Develop participants' knowledge of facts about diversity, e.g., sexual harassment laws and gender differences
- Solicit the best way to handle face-to-face situations with people different from themselves
- Allow the sharing of personal information about their own background, values, and experiences around gender issues
- Enable them to experience the challenges they face working with people whose gender and sexual orientation are different.
Dr. George Simons, collaborator on the development of The Gender Deck, points out the critical need for organizations to address gender issues. "People tend to withdraw from rather than try to overcome gender-based differences," he says.
"Gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues are on the cutting-edge of diversity topics," notes Amy Zuckerman, coauthor of Sexual Orientation In The Workplace. "Even though our society has made progress toward accepting gays and lesbians, homophobic discrimination, violence, and stereotypes still exist. Tools such as The Gender Deck will help people work through their feelings with accurate information."
MULTUS Inc., the original publisher of diversophy® was an organization specializing in the development and distribution of interactive and other training media that addressed critical issues in the workplace.
Diversigame, Training & Development
For another approach to diversity training, you may want to try the board game, diversophy®: Understanding the Human-Race, from Multus. The game consists of a game board, a pair of dice, position markers for six players, 100 diversicoins, and diversicards. The cards, which are used to stimulate discussion, are divided into four sets:
- "diversismarts," which ask for players' knowledge of diversity facts
- "diversichoice," which ask players to apply their knowledge of diversity to real-life situations
- "diversishare," which ask players to tell about their own cultural backgrounds and their experiences with people from various backgrounds
- "diversirisk," which show some of the opportunities and challenges of living and working in a multicultural world.
The game is designed to be played with a facilitator to assist in debriefings and in-depth exploration of topics raised during play.
diversophy® Makes the Cover, Members on the move, Business Santa Cruz
- George Simons International is thrilled to announce that its cultural diversity training game diversophy® is featured on the cover and in the main story of the July 1994 issue of Successful Meetings Magazine.
- Michael Adams' cover story, "Games Companies Play: Combining Training and Fun is Right on Target for Today's Workplace" focuses on the trend in corporations and organizations toward using training games to energize and educate employees.
- diversophy®, the brainchild of long-term Santa Cruz diversity consultant Dr. George F. Simons and co-produced with Multus Inc. of San Mateo, provides an exciting and non-threatening environment to explore, learn about and celebrate cultural difference.
- Quoted in the article, Multus Inc. President Jose Lafortune said that games "help you learn in spite of yourself. Games tap into all cultures."
- George Simons International, based in Santa Cruz, CA is a diversity consulting and training firm. Working in over 15 -countries, GSI serves clients such as Procter & Gamble, the General Service Administration of the U.S. Government, Mobil Plastics Europe and Sun Microsystems
Games Augment Diversity Training - HR Offers Protection During Takeovers - Simulations Build Teams, PERSONNEL JOURNAL, THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE FOR LEADERS IN HUMAN RESOURCES
If you think that games are just for children, think again. According to New York City-based Toy Manufacturers of America, retail sales of adult games topped $160 million in 1992. Adults too, it seems, love to play games.
That's why many HR professionals are turning to board games for training purposes. Board games provide information to participants in an entertaining way. Players learn while they compete. In addition, the interactive nature of games offers the opportunity for informal discussions.
One area of training that games have impacted in the last few years is diverSity. Since 1991, at least three board games addressing diversity issues have hit the training-products market. Trainers are finding that they can use these games to introduce the topic of diversity to employees, or to incorporate the games into existing diversity-training programs as follow-up or reinforcement.
Although each game is unique in design and play format, all three have the same objectives — to raise awareness about diversity topics in a non-threatening manner and stimulate conversations about these issues.
SHARING ADDS ADDITIONAL INTERACTION
A similar board game designed as a diversity-training tool is DIVERSOPHY — Understanding the Human Race™, created as a joint project by San Mateo, California-based Multus Inc. and George Simons International in Santa Cruz, California.
In DIVERSOPHY, players take turns rolling dice and moving game pieces around a multicolored board that has a pattern resembling a racetrack. (Individual players are recommended for this game, to promote individual involvement and to keep the game moving at a quick pace. However, it can played in teams of two.) Colored squares along the paths correspond to colored cards. When landing on these squares, players must read a corresponding card and follow directions.
Like the other game, some cards require answering multiple-choice questions. For example, when landing on green spaces, players must read from diversiSMARTS cards. One such card asks the question: In Hispanic families, one of the highest values is placed on which of the following?
C. Being on time
D. Respect for elders.
(The answer, according to the authors, is D. The question writers document their resources for all answers in the game package.)
What differentiates diversophy® from the QED game is diversiSHARE cards, drawn when players land on blue spaces: These require players to share something about themselves. For example, one card states: "Name three similarities between yourself and the person directly to your right." Other cards ask players to relate personal experiences or to challenge other players to talk about their experiences relating to a particular topic.
diversiCHOICE cards, drawn when players land on a yellow space, require players to choose the best option in a given situation. For example, one diversiCHOICE card poses this situation: A 61-year-old employee asks you to approve him or her for a leadership training program. Normally it takes seven years for the employee to advance to the intended management position. You should:
A. Acknowledge the employee's right to participate and enroll him or her.
B. Reject the application.
C. Discourage the applicant and get him or her to withdraw voluntarily.
(According to the creators of the game, the correct answer is B — Reject the application because the long-term investment involved justifies this decision.)
Red cards don't pose questions but simply relay facts. Some of these cards send players to celebration squares on the board as players team about a different cultural festivity. (Did you know that during the Islamic season of Ramadan, people fast for 30 days in honor of the revelations given to the Prophet?) These red cards also can send players into traps for making assumptions based on stereotypes or for displaying biased attitudes. (Assuming that the only male employee in your office will carry in heavy boxes will cost you a turn.)
To win the game, a player has to collect the most diversiCOINS, awarded for correct answers and each time a player's game piece passes through the middle DIVERSOPHY square. Game facilitators decide on the amount of time for play.
Multus began selling diversophy® at the beginning of this year.
GAMES GET PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT DIVERSITY
Connie Bates, vices president of Multus Inc., says that most people who play diversophy® engage in conversations during the game. "A lot of the feedback we get is that the game creates conversation when the answers surprise people," she says. Bates adds that one of Multus' goals in creating this game was to get people to talk about diversity issues. To ensure that discussion develop, all three games come with facilitator-booklets. These help in-house people to facilitate the games and lead players into productive conversations — both during the games and after play. The step-by-step instructions include:
- How to optimize learning
- How to troubleshoot
- How to manage reaction
- How to arrange the cards (in DIVERSOPHY) to cover the issues that are most prevalent, in the organization.
GAMES SERVE AS TEACHING TOOLS
Another goal of the games is to raise awareness and understanding of a multitude of diversity issues among workers.
Cheryl Heggemeier, HR regional manager for Silver Spring, Maryland based Manor Care, bought the DIVERSOPHY game in February and plans to use it in management training Heggemeier oversees 11 centers in the Florida area. Each center employs between 12 and 15 managers. Having the game will enable her to conduct group diversity training during regular visits to the centers. "A game format isn't threatening for the learners," she says, "and when people are involved, they get more out of it than if they're just listening to a lecturer or a video."
She hopes that the game will help the managers feel more comfortable talking about diversity issues. "I've noticed that although people want something done to fix the problems they see occurring between two groups of workers who don't get along, or between a client and an employee who speaks English as a second language, there's a great fear of opening up the subject," says Heggemeier. "I think the belief is that it might stir things up in a negative way." She says that because a game format addresses the topic in a fun, non threatening way, the chance of this happening is reduced. Playing a game has helped Heggemeier break the ice within her group and helped to start people talking about this touchy subject.
Other companies are buying the games to serve this same purpose. At Menlo Park, California-based ADIA
"A game format isn't threatening for the learners," she says, "and when people are involved, they get more out of it than if they're just listening to a lecturer or a video."
Personnel, for example, employee relations manager Patrice Paulson plans to use her recently purchased DIVERSOPHY game to raise the awareness level of field-staff personnel on diversity issues and provoke them into thinking — and talking — about these topics.
GAMES REINFORCE OTHER TRAININGS
Some companies that have extensive diversity programs, however, use the games not as icebreakers to introduce the subject, but as a follow-up to reinforce the subject. Corning, for example, has an ongoing program consisting of eight different training courses. Business groups complete each segment of the training together so that each member is at the same level as the others on awareness and experience.
Often, when these groups get together for informal brown-bag lunch meetings or regular staff meetings, diversity-related topics and issues arise. In these situations, group supervisors ask the education and training department for additional materials that they can use. "The game basically is used as a follow-up activity to keep the topic of diversity alive and viable for people who want to learn more about these issues, but who don't necessarily want to go through another formal training experience," says Stevenson.
TRAINEES HAVE FUN PLAYING GAMES
Stevenson says that the response has been favorable from people at Corning who have played the game. The human resources personnel have all found it to be a useful training tool and recommend it to managers frequently for use in follow-up activities.
Abernathy adds that one of the great benefits of the game is that if the questions aren't challenging enough, a company can develop its own, as Price Waterhouse did. The DIVERSOPHY game comes with blank cards for this purpose.
In addition, Multus is developing card sets that pertain to particular issues, such as gender-only cards and card sets on specific cultures. Multus also offers a service in which clients can peruse its data base of questions and choose items most relevant to their organizations.
It's this mix of questions that Manor Care's Heggemeier credits as the value of the game. "I feel that the knowledge about all these different cultures isn't something you can put together yourself," she says. Because of its usefulness in making individuals more culturally aware, Heggemeier says that the game is worth the cost. "I think that because it's a game, people find it difficult to understand why it costs so much. I get a lot of materials daily from companies trying to sell training products, so I know what training materials cost."
The experiences gained through the interaction of the games are as valuable as the knowledge learned. "People have told me that they felt closer to each other after playing the game," says Heggemeier. 'Some of these people have known each other for quite a while, but they learned something new about their co-workers." "It's a great team-binding activity," adds Corning's Kiefer, "and I thought it was fun." Adults, it seems, really do like to play games. •
Dawn Gunsch is an assistant editor at PERSONNEL JOURNAL.