Historical Overview of Competency Research

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Historically, seminal work in E.T. Hall’s Silent Language in 1959 encouraged the next two decades from the 1960s through the 1980s to investigate the best concepts, principles, variables, and theories to explain intercultural competence. Fueled by returning Peace Corps volunteers, some of whom began training organizations while others went to universities, a wide set of explanations for how to be successful in adapting and working overseas emerged. Early work by Michael Prosser invited readers to consider rhetoric at the United Nations (Sow the Wind, Reap by Whirlwind; Readings in Intercultural Communication; Intercultural Dialogue). Subsequently, works by Dan Kealey in the Canadian Development Agency, Brent Rueben at Rutgers, Gary Wiederspahn in training, Michael Tucker in training, and the long term work by Richard Brislin, William Gudykunst, Young Kim, and Dan Landis in research and publishing (to name a few) set a tone for exciting concepts to be investigated. The work to follow by Mitch Hammer at American University and the ongoing seminars by the several institutes including the work of Milton Bennett, Michael Paige, Janet Bennett, and the work by Anne Copeland contributed greatly to the work by the years 2000 and onward. Professional groups like SIETAR published their list of scales and instruments (http://www.sietar-europa.org/SIETARproject/Assessments&instruments.html). Families in Global Transistion (FIGT) launched a series of annual conferences since 1999 where professionals focus on family and organizational relocation issues.

Carley Dodd began work in the late 1980s to focus his intercultural research from relationships and cross-cultural diffusion toward intercultural readiness, competence, reducing culture shock, and creating effectiveness. He and his wife Ada conducted several years of summer team seminars for overseas preparation from 1983-1993. Regardless of the training topics and approaches, which were good, interest in research motivated a desire to develop a reliable assessment for strengths and weaknesses focused on anticipated intercultural tasks, relationships, and intercultural adaptation these teams would encounter. The literature then and now documented unacceptably high failure rates among all expatriates. We wanted to improve this condition with pre-departure assessment and training. Dodd worked with psychologists trying MMPI, DISC, 16PF, Meyers-Briggs, NEO and other tests to explore improved predictions of who needed what kind of pre-departure training. While these instruments were excellent for their stated goals, they were never designed for intercultural issues as such. That is, an assessment was needed to predict the performance and adaptive skills needed in domestic and international tasks that involved people relocating.

Starting in the 1990s through 2011, Dodd and a number of his graduate students embarked on the task of discovering the most robust variables and assessments related to intercultural effectiveness. This work sparked dozens of projects and MA theses, three dissertations (Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, and Regents University) and a book presenting an early instrument called the E-model (Carley Dodd, Dynamics of Intercultural Communication. McGraw-Hill, 1998). What we still needed was a scale with the most recent data and literature and a testing sequence to see if the scale actually works for performance, since validity in the scales we noticed from the literature was often illusive. Meanwhile, studies by GMAC and others continued to show that organizational relocation investments were not returning the ROI and that military, education, and non-profits were similarly seeing early return rates ranging from 25%-65%. Clearly, individuals and families relocating often need a boost to avoid task failure, early return failure, lack of performance, feeling of worthlessness, debilitating culture shock, family or spouse adjustments, and the loss of face their organizations were experiencing.

To develop the most advanced scale of this type, our team conducted a series of tests totaling some 2,000 people from 30 countries in education, missions, corporations, military, and non-profit groups. This work resulted in the Intercultural Readiness Assessment (or IRA) in 2007, and now the  development and release of the Go Cultural Assessment (GCA©) in 2011. Simultaneously, Dodd’s latest textbook was released, Managing Business and Profession Communication (Allyn & Bacon, 2011), which includes a section addressing intercultural issues for business and professional leaders.

At Go Culture International we continue ongoing R&D using advanced statistical procedures and testing. The result is the instrument’s high reliability (alpha = .91) and high validity (over 80% effectiveness predicted and achieved).