Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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cultural value orientations communicating across cultures

CQ Communication & Decision-making Cultural Value Orientations


In this second blog post discussing the ten cultural value orientations of Cultural Intelligence (CQ)1Go to to see a summary of all 10 CQ cultural value orientations., I will focus on the values related to communication and decision-making. It is important for the cross-cultural worker to understand these different values in order to avoid misunderstanding and offense. In order to help you, I offer an example in each value orientation pair. I’m sure you can come up with examples from your ministry context.

Again, I’ve included a discussion question after each summary of the three identity related cultural value orientations. Please share your comments. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Low-Context/Direct and High-Context/Indirect:

Communication styles differ in important ways between low-context and high-context cultures. In low-context settings, the relationship between people is a small factor in many conversations. For instance, the length of the line at a checkout counter is more important than the relationship one has with the cashier when deciding where to line up. People speak directly and frankly, and value clarity in others. Meeting agendas in low-context settings are usually brief and to the point. The chairperson who moves the discussion along quickly to reach decisions is admired.

cultural value orientations

CQ Identity-Related Cultural Value Orientations


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.

Are multicultural teams more innovative?

In theory, a multicultural team should have many more creative ideas than a team made up those of all one culture. But in reality, multicultural teams are often stuck in even deeper ruts of tradition than mono-cultural teams, because so much of their energy is devoted to keeping the peace and learning how to communicate. Rather than coming with a fresh new strategy, the team just continues to do what they have always done because the “way we have always done it” is the least risky and requires the least amount of explanation.

Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity by [Livermore, David]

In his book, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity, David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center helps us understand what team leaders and team members on diverse teams need to do to create a climate and a process for true innovation. 

As Livermore says, multicultural teams are not automatically more innovative.

Multi-tasking is a cultural trait

Over the past few weeks, I have been listening to a fascinating series of lectures by Dr. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center.  I purchased the lectures on Audible as part of one of “The Great Courses” that they offer. This course is 12 hours long and is entitled “Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are.” I would highly recommend the course in learning more about other cultures and as part of learning to work in other cultures and on multicultural teams.

In one of the lectures, Dr. Livermore talked about how different cultures view time. Besides contrasting a value on punctuality with a value on relationships, he talked about monochronic and polychronic cultures.

Missionary, know thyself!

by Josie Oldenburg, reposted from the SEND blog

I vividly remember the moment I understood that culture permeates all of life. I’d already been a missionary for a few years, and I was reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” the true story of an epileptic Hmong girl and the cultural tug-of-war over her medical care. The author casually mentioned that in the girl’s Hmong household, family photographs “hung close to the ceiling, to show respect.”

“My gracious,” I thought, glancing at my own eye-level art, “culture even affects where you hang your pictures.” (Check out these “Fantastic tips for perfectly placed art;” surely nearer the ceiling would be easier!)

Making the Most of Multi-cultural Teaming

SEND International is intentionally multi-ethnic and multi-national because it takes people from all nations to reach all nations. Our membership is currently composed of at least 13 nationalities, and many more cultures are represented within those nationalities.

Our “multi-culturalness” provides unique opportunities as we seek to fulfill the mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ among unreached peoples of the world. But the diversity that accompanies this mix of cultures also has many inherent challenges; challenges that should be acknowledged and addressed.

Mapping Your Cultural Values


I have just finished reading a great book on cultural differences as it applies to working with multicultural teams. The book: The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business is filled with fascinating real-life stories of how cultural differences impact relationships between people working together.  The author, Erin Meyer, is an American living in Paris and a professor at INSEAD, the “Business School for the World”.  She trains leaders from many different cultures of the world.   No, the book is not written specifically for missionaries, but is nevertheless a very valuable resource for anyone working in a cross-cultural environment, and particularly those who serve on multicultural teams.

Based on extensive research and experience, Meyer has come to realize that you cannot simply categorize cultures into two camps on a particular issue.  For example, cultures are not simply time-oriented or event-oriented.  The English see the French as not punctual and disorganized, but Indians see the French as too rigid in terms of time!  Both are right – from their vantage point.   And from yet another place on the spectrum, the Germans see the English as being “disorganized, chaotic and always late” (p. 22).   See the diagram below that compares Israeli (red) and Russia (yellow) cultural maps.   So we see that cultures are scattered across a spectrum, and what matters is not a culture’s absolute position on the spectrum, but rather its relative position in comparison to the culture it is interfacing with.

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