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Assessments for Intercultural Teams

Updated: May 5, 2023

Part 3 of 3 Series

Another reason why Inter-Cultural Intelligence matters!

So we have learned that, as useful as comprehensive assessments can be, they always present additional challenges in intercultural contexts—inevitable challenges of a magnitude that could nullify the assessments’ findings. Inter-Cultural Intelligence and an understanding of the Three Colors of Worldview are invaluable tools for understanding how what might be a seemingly-ideal comprehensive assessment in a monocultural context could, in an intercultural context, end up just being a tremendous waste of valuable time and money.

Anticipating and preparing to overcome hurdles

In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the reality of assessment fatigue, and how its likelihood is compounded exponentially when assessments are introduced to a multicultural team. Language barriers are only the beginning—a significant beginning. For the additional-language English speaker (someone for whom English is a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or more language), it is daunting even to look at a collection of 150+ questions in a language that is not your mother tongue. Add to that the probability that the test-taker is feeling some amount of anxiety about his or her performance, depending on how well the purposes of the assessment have been articulated.

Certain skills that would be helpful in navigating a comprehensive assessment are more emphasized and intentionally developed in some cultures than in others (e.g., deductive reasoning, cause-and-effect thinking, critical analysis, and the ability to formulate good questions and engage in profitable discussion). Individuals who did not grow up with an intentional emphasis on developing these particular skills are going to find themselves at a natural disadvantage when taking this particular kind of assessment. Especially, as previously discussed also, when the comprehensive assessments are designed to be so very thoroughly comprehensive—exploring multiple constructs and complex scenarios.

Add to those hurdles the practical one of length! Some of these tools are inordinately long, considering the target audience and aims. So say you’re a team member, you’re motivated (by any number of real or perceived reasons to perform well), you enter the assessment with a positive spirit and a genuine desire to give it your best shot. You start working hard, and you’re trying to gain some momentum.

But gradually, the longer the assessment drags on, the more confusing and time-consuming encounters you have with unfamiliar or nuanced language, the more concepts are introduced, the more complex the questions seem to be, the more it sets in mentally that your reputation or job or character might be at stake if you “fail” this—the more you will fade. Of course you’ll suffer assessment fatigue! And yet you’re still being asked to determine “what would I do in ___ situation?” while you’re wondering what you might possibly be able to do to get out of this comprehensive assessment situation you’ve gotten yourself into.

Assuming too much

The very concept of a comprehensive assessment presupposes that all human beings have an innate curiosity about their personal affinities and aptitudes. It takes for granted that all humans hold in common a fundamental belief that a well-made assessment is the ultimate method by which to measure those affinities and aptitudes reliably.

However, comprehensive assessments—the whole idea of using an assessment tool to measure competencies and tendencies in the first place—that has Innocence-Guilt –oriented Color of Worldview written all over it. People who are accustomed to the Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm may or may not “like” taking tests, but they do tend to view them as legitimate, authoritative, and optimal ways to determine helpful results. To them, it is inherently meaningful and surely acceptable to evaluate something on paper or online through a series of questions and answers that have “right” or “wrong” answers, even if they range from right to wrong on a scale.

Innocence-Guilt –oriented individuals are intrigued by individual accountability; they lean more directive regarding destiny. They gravitate toward processes and procedures, ways to quantify and qualify and document and summarize and justify. Figuring out what the optimal combination of answers would be is a priority for them.

But those inclinations and values are not universal to all of humanity! If you are familiar with the different priorities and values of people who grew up in other cultural paradigms, you recognize it is a mistake to assume everyone universally agrees on the legitimacy of an assessment to assess holistically or adequately—certainly not to assess authoritatively. At least not in light of their own Colors of Worldview.

Monocultural, Innocence-Guilt –oriented teams might perk up when offered an opportunity to “know thyself.” They would be more likely to want to volunteer the “right” answer (or even to answer at all) than people coming from an Honor-Shame –oriented or Power-Fear –oriented cultural paradigm. The “social desirability” factor will come into play, as well. Within cultural constructs where the desire for acceptance is high and where definitions and connotations of what “honor” and “power” and “innocence” really look like—within different cultural constructs, there is a high likelihood that the wish to be acceptable will blur or eclipse the commitment to answer candidly.

“What’s my motivation?”

The designer of the assessment tool (who likely is personally characterized by an Innocence-Guilt Color of Worldview) believes that everyone will be motivated to answer all of the questions and to answer them as candidly and conscientiously as possible. Again, there are just a lot of good-to-bad assumptions underlying the whole idea of introducing a comprehensive assessment to multicultural teams. What if, for various legitimate reasons, certain individuals do not actually want to volunteer an answer to certain questions at all?

If you come from a more community accountability –oriented culture that is more directed destiny –oriented, maybe a culture where indirect communication is a more prominent approach than direct communication, then these are significant factors in what might motivate (or demotivate) you as you navigate pages and pages of a comprehensive assessment! And if your default approach is pursue honor and avoid shame—at all costs—it might feel to you like answering some questions honestly would reflect poorly on your community or your reputation—and yet you would desire to be truthful, for honor’s sake. Or if your behavior is influenced by your background with a Power-Fear worldview, then you may find that you may not want to give a candid answer out of fear you will lose face, or even lose your job.

A multicultural team will have mixed feelings and be more deeply or superficially motivated depending on the content of the questions, or even how they are worded.

That “knowing yourself” piece is just not as valuable for some people. It is only as important as it is valuable to the community, or to the person to whom you pledge allegiance. If your leader wants you to take the assessment—your boss, family, tribe, neighborhood, etc.—then that is your motivator; the person in charge has asked you to do this. But otherwise, if there is no compelling community-supporting rationale, then people from those cultural backgrounds may not believe it to be a significant priority.

Wait—what?! Are we in trouble?

So when suddenly a comprehensive assessment is suggested and a multicultural team is required to take it—if it has not already been intentionally clarified who and what is behind this action, and why it’s being seriously considered as a priority—then people begin to wonder what “the real reason” could be. No positive reason has been made immediately apparent. It can become difficult for people to escape the notion that they are not “in the dock” for something.

If an organization-wide culture of assessment-taking has not been previously established as an indication that something is right and healthy and normal, then people are naturally going to worry that something is wrong. They may come up with multiple negative hypotheses for why the testing is (evidently) important to someone, somewhere. They may conclude that perhaps one of the team has been underperforming and this assessment is to pinpoint the “problem child.” Or maybe there are worries about budget cuts and how the leadership is going to determine who should get laid off (which train of thought leads us spiraling right back to square one and anxiety contributing to poor performance on the comprehensive assessments).

Creating “a culture of assessment”

If you take an assessment that actually comes from one cultural construct in one part of the world, and you try to plug that into a culture that is very different, all kinds of things can go wrong. The more you can mete out exposure to psychometrics, the higher your team’s likelihood of success will be. That is the approach that we at KnowledgeWorkx seek to assist organizations in taking. To start with, we can help you in leading your organization into a step-by-step unpacking of creating self- and others-awareness, helping your multicultural teams to cultivate and regularly practice those four foundational ways of thinking and constantly evaluating—i.e., (1) deductive reasoning, (2) cause-and-effect thinking, (3) critical analysis, and the (4) the ability to ask good questions and to engage in profitable discussions.

Creating a third cultural space—a “journey culture”—is imperative if you desire to nurture the kind of environment where comprehensive assessments could work even with multicultural teams. It is all about initiating and perpetuating conversation with colleagues (not constant chatter but fostering the feeling of mutual approachability and an open line of communication). It is learning to ask good questions of yourself and one another, on a regular basis, so that self-assessment becomes a natural and positive normal practice, rather than the exception to the rule.

Even in multicultural settings, all of these are global teaming and leadership competencies that can be developed over time (especially with tools like Three Colors of Worldview and Inter-Cultural Intelligence certification opportunities). If there is a safe environment for their development, they can be developed more wholly and quickly. Some companies might take 3-5 years to nurture a culture where they can administer a 360 evaluation.

You can only create that kind of safe environment if you acknowledge that you are all on the journey together. Once you have patiently fostered that culture of safety, that ability to share, intentionality and humility in learning what you need from colleagues and from the environment; once that conversation starts flowing—THEN it becomes possible to increase the level of complexity. Then people are increasingly able to welcome it, absorb it, translate it, and learn from it.

That’s especially the case if you can find an optimal tool that is easily accessible, yet which provides deep insights—such as Wiley’s Everything DiSC—a simple tool, but not a simplistic tool. It is incredibly powerful, especially if you’re able to first create a positive organization-wide culture of assessment, and to do that requires a sophisticated level of Inter-Cultural Intelligence.


How do I find out my own Colors of Worldview?

KnowledgeWorkx has published several articles exploring all three of the Colors of Worldview in-depth. For example, for those who want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm, read this article about applying the Innocence-Guilt paradigm. In fact, if you would like to learn about your own color(s), check out this opportunity to discover your own Three Colors of Worldview profile, and get a personalized report:


This series : Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



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