Globalization has brought us many diverse opportunities, such as the chance to work overseas or in a multicultural environment. And while the benefits of global ideas and perspectives are essential, building and keeping up the spirit of a cross-cultural team can be a tricky task.
Here are two great warm-up activities to create and set a positive mood for cross-cultural communication.
Warm Up Game: “Animal Family”
This is an easy game to help form groups, played at the beginning of the training to set a relaxed mood and deliver an initial message.
Write down members of animal families (grandpa dog, grandma dog, father dog, etc.) on pieces of paper. Depending on the number of players, families could be 3-10 people. You can have cat, chicken, cow, crab families etc.…
Each person takes a piece of paper, without reading it. Only after all participants have their paper can they read them.
After being given the go-ahead by the facilitator, each player has to find their family as quickly as possible, without talking. They do this by imitating the sound and movement of the animal written on their paper.
When the family has found all their “relatives”, they have to find a way to line up in the correct order (still without talking) based on seniority: grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, son, and daughter. The first family standing in the right order wins.
Main debriefing message: Don’t make quick conclusions if people from different cultures have different ways of expressing their ideas and themselves. Animal sounds for the same animal are different in each culture, for example a dog’s sound is gav in Russian, meong in Korean, wong in Cantonese, and woof in English.
Communication Exercise: “Associations”
This is a simple, fun exercise to help each participant clarify for themselves their concept of “team” (You can substitute the word “team” for another concept you’d like to emphasize).
It is useful in a diverse team to foster better communication and clarify the common things that teammates share. You might be surprised at your colleagues’ unexpected viewpoint.
Pen and paper
Facilitator asks the audience the following questions and they record the very first images associated with it, whatever comes to mind:
- If a team is a building, it is …
- If a team is a colour, it is…
- If a team is music, it is…
- If a team is a geometrical shape, then it is…
- If a team is the name of a movie, it is…
- If a team is a mood, it is…
Facilitator then carries out a survey to gauge reaction to recorded answers. The result of the exercise is to find out and share which answers the participants found interesting and surprising. It reveals the differences in thinking and cultural background, promoting better communication in their future work together.
Other Activity Suggestions
Effective Cross Cultural Teamwork
Cross-cultural communication is an essential part of effective teamwork in any international workplace. These light yet handy activities help broaden horizons and lift the veil of stereotypes to create and support a friendly working environment.
What games have you used to improve cross-cultural communication in your workplace? Please share with us in the comments!