What happens in BaFa’ BaFa’?
After an initial briefing two cultures are created. The Alpha culture is a relationship oriented, high context, strong in-group out-group culture. The Beta culture is a highly competitive trading culture. After the participants learn the rules of their culture and begin living it, observers and visitors are exchanged. The resulting stereotyping, misperception and misunderstanding becomes the grist for the debriefing.
In the simulation portion of BaFa’ BaFa’ we create a problem for all of the participants. We require them to live and interact in another culture. We then ask them how they felt when they were in the foreign culture. They generally report feeling lost overwhelmed, invisible etc. We then ask what strategies they adopted to cope with those feelings; they report such behaviors as trying to escape, discounting the other culture, dropping out psychologically, insulting them, etc.
At this point, we explain that in the simulation we were starting the process of developing traditions for the Alpha and Beta cultures. In other words, their strategies for coping will soon become ways that the people from their culture will use to interact with people from different cultures. If we were to focus on these cultural differences it would make it more difficult to relate to other cultures. However, if we were to focus on how these cultural traditions developed, i.e., people in our culture were trying to learn how to feel welcome, competent, and valued when interacting with another culture, we would then draw closer together.
The next step is to teach them non-defensive ways of asking about cultural practices and the problems those practices were designed to solve.
We then discuss the assumptions of the diversity challenge. We draw a Venn diagram and present the assumptions of the diagram.
- Everyone is bicultural or multi-cultural. Each employee belongs to the culture of his or her birth and heritage and also is a member of the corporate work culture.
- The culture that a person inherits from his or her home i.e., culture A, B, or C, cannot be changed or modified by the work culture.
- The bringing together of people from diverse cultures into a work culture can create major benefits for the individual and the corporation. The challenge for the people within the corporation is to shape the vision, values, and practices of the work culture in a way that produces these benefits.
We then teach them a technique for weighing the different approaches against the values of their own culture and identifying those practices that are not compatible with the corporate culture, those that are neutral, and those that support and encourage the organization’s values.
The final step is to identify ways of reinforcing and encouraging those cultural practices that are different, and also support the organization’s values.
How have organizations used BaFa’ BaFa’?
Organizations big and small use BaFa’ BaFa’ to reinforce the positive aspects of cultural diversity, to prepare employees for overseas assignments, to build sensitivity towards cultural differences within the work place, to introduce corporate culture to new employees, to help employees adjust during mergers or right sizing, discuss conflict management, or to encourage discussion between groups that have never worked together before. See a list of customers who’ve used our Professional Version of BaFa’ BaFa’.