By Edward Appleton
Group-think is a well-documented social and political phenomenon. It’s also a cultural phenomenon – take a look at any canteen in a multi-national organization, groups of people from one country tend to hang together.
As researchers, it’s an advantage not to be inadvertently influenced by one school of “cultural thought” in intercultural projects
Having a range of disciplines in a team that comes from all walks of life enriches the insight gathering process. So – trapeze artists, hairdressers, librarians, mathematicians, film-makers, journalists….the list of “non-experts” can be long.
Curiosity, the ability to listen, observe, capture, record, interpret – these are the qualities that help us build on ethnographic observations.
Equally, having researchers that are multi-lingual, multi-cultural helps massively, even if these are not the actual countries you’re doing research in.
The mentality is invariably “culturally alert” and sensitive to “difference” in all its complexity and pluralism – having a sixth sense of when and where it’s necessary to prick up one’s researcher’s ear, dig deeper during fieldwork, reach out to local experts as “interpreters” and being able to interface more sensitively with those “local” experts or natives.
It helps having practiced “translating” language from one into another – less is lost at local level, commonalities are identified more sensitively when it comes to identifying “regional” or “cross-national” communication or positioning platforms. The local links up better to the “global”.
Researchers who have come from a family with dual-nationalities, or have spent a significant time living abroad are, in our view, well equipped to handle what I describe above.
Edward Appleton, Happy Thinking People