Networking across Cultures
In this activity, participants will
increase their awareness of the benefits that come from diversity in social networks:
different social surroundings, different educational backgrounds, different genders, etc.;
learn to use networks better to meet organizational challenges;
get fresh insights about the role of culture in a global economy and a networked world; and
recognize that today more and more individuals can be considered multicultural, because
of the variety of cultural influences and choices that have shaped their personalities and
life experiences.
Any group needing to learn about networking across cultures; maximum size of 14 participants
100 to 120 minutes
Flipcharts and markers
Prepared transparencies or flipchart pages with definitions and examples of networks (see
material for four transparencies or flipcharts)
Sheets of drawing paper for each participant
A prepared list of tasks to be solved by networking (see sample)
A room large enough for break-out groups to work
1. Ask the group, “What is networking?” Write participant responses on a flipchart. Build on
their ideas to explain networking, using definitions, key words, and examples. (Sample
transparencies or flipchart pages are given below.) It is important, especially in a multi-
cultural group, to emphasize that networking means more than just handing out your busi-
ness cards to people you meet. (10 minutes)
2. Ask participants to think about the groups of which they are a part (e.g., professional,
sports, cooking, parents, studies, societies, etc.), and why these groups are important to
3. Tell them to draw their individual networks on paper. They should put their name in the
center of the page and draw connections to other individuals from there. As they write the
names of people, they will see the groups that they represent (my nephew’s name, for
example, leads to the fact that he directs an office-supply firm. This might be a valuable
network connection when I need office supplies). (10 minutes)
4. Ask each person to pair with another who is quite different from them. Tell the partners
to explain their networks to one another. Encourage them to ask questions about one
another’s network and the possible value it might have for their own networking.
(20 minutes)
5. Reconvene the large group and ask participants to share what they discovered in exchang-
ing information about one another’s networks. You might ask each person to tell the group
what surprised him or her most about their pair-partner’s network. (15 to 30 minutes)
6. Form new subgroups of up to five people. Challenge them to carry out 10 tasks, using the
networks of the members of their new subgroup. (Customize the sample challenge list
below for your group.) (30 minutes)
7. Return to the large group and ask each group to report on the tasks it successfully solved
and how it discovered successful routes to resources from its members’ networks.
(15 minutes)
At this point, you can challenge group participants to apply what it has learned to address a
real problem in their organizations. Ask them to identify one or more problems in their
organization(s) that can be solved by drawing on the networks of one or more members.
(This could take an additional 30 minutes.)
Beware of possible cultural limitations: Dutch people, for example, do not like others to use
their networks, unless there is an open agreement to this effect.
Ask participants to use a word or phrase to describe what they felt the exercise contributed to
them, and perhaps tell how they might use what they have learned when returning to work.

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