Introduction:

Cultural knowledge is essential for missionaries as we make disciples in a multicultural world. SEND U is now using the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Assessment tool in our prefield training and lifelong development of cultural understanding. The CQ assessment identifies ten cultural value orientations framed in contrasting pairs that present a continuum of possible orientations.

But here a warning is necessary. Do not use these cultural value orientations to form stereotypes about particular cultures because cultures change. Globalization accelerates that change and has created a blend of global culture and local cultures often referred to as “glocal.” Don’t be surprised if an individual behaves with one orientation among internationals and a different orientation among his/her local culture.

I have written a brief summary of the ten cultural value orientations on the SEND U wiki. In three posts on this blog, I will discuss the ten orientations grouped as orientations related to:

  1. identity
  2. communication and decision-making
  3. time and planning

I’ve included a discussion question after each summary of the three identity related cultural value orientations. Please share your comments.

Identity Related Cultural Value Orientations:

Three of the cultural value orientations relate to how people view their identity. One’s sense of identity is a complex blend of influences from common humanity, individual personality, and culture.

Individualism and collectivism

This pair of cultural value orientations focus on how a person understands their personal identity. Cultures with an orientation toward individualism emphasize developing one’s identity based on individual goals and rights. People on this end of the spectrum want to be “true to themselves” and make their own way in the world. Ironically, individualists sometimes gather with like-minded people and form groups that enhance, strengthen, and sometimes control their sense of identity.

People with a collectivist orientation derive their identity from group relationships such as kinship, ethnicity, or occupation. Decisions and goals are made that will benefit the group. Disruption of one’s relationship with the group will lead to an identity crisis.

While one-on-one Bible studies and gospel presentations would be appropriate among individualists, a group Bible study and gospel presentation would fit a collectivist context better. People with a collectivist orientation find it harder to make a decision that would separate them from their group. If a group decides to follow Christ together, then they will immediately have a new group where they can belong and with which they can identify.

Following Christ does give one a new identity, whether one comes from an individualist or collectivist culture. The collectivist will welcome the new community in Christ. But the individualist will need to learn to appreciate the community of fellow Christians.

How might we approach disciple-making differently among individualists and collectivists?

cooperative and competitive

This set of orientations is related to the Individualism/Collectivism pair. A key factor here is who gets the credit for achievement: individuals or the group. In cooperative settings, the group works together and succeeds together. Individuals are not singled out for their contributions. But in competitive settings, people acknowledge and reward individuals for their unique contributions. In competitive contexts, “student of the month” and “employee of the month” awards are common. But such awards would be an embarrassment and demotivation in cooperative contexts.

When I started teaching at Alaska Bible College in 1978, most students were competitive oriented and there was a lot of resistance to group assignments. Students did not want to share the same grade with others in the group who might not have worked as hard on the project. Instead, they wanted an individual grade recognizing their contribution along with the group grade. Thirty years later, the situation had changed. When the president initiated a “student of the month” award, there was quite a negative reaction. The college culture had changed to be more cooperative-oriented and much more open to group assignments.

What are some ways we can cultivate teamwork when both cooperative and competitive orientations are present in our teams?

being and doing:

All cultures value both a person’s identity and their work. The difference lies in emphasis and priority. Does “being” flow out of “doing” or does “doing” flow out of “being?” “Doing” cultures define their identity by what one does. In contrast, “being” cultures see tasks (doing) as expressing their identity. Being-oriented cultures stress the quality of life, relationships, and cultivating virtue. Doing-oriented cultures stress tasks and accomplishing goals.

Team meetings are often the stage on which being and doing orientations make their appearance. For example, those who focus on “being” linger around the coffee pot, are slow to return from breaks, and just enjoy being together. Those who are doing-oriented want to get on with the agenda, define and assign tasks, and accomplish something. In order for a team to function well, both being and doing need to be present. If you are more doing-oriented, recognize and appreciate that being together is accomplishing something. On the other hand, if you emphasize “being”, then recognize and appreciate that the team’s purpose is to accomplish certain tasks. As members of the team appreciate the different orientations, they will become more effective in working together.

How can we develop teams that celebrate both being and doing?