Inaugural program builds trust across difference
The global economy is more diverse and more interconnected than ever before, which means that having skills to interact successfully with a wide group of people across language, nationality, race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender-orientation and many other factors is mission critical to any professional in the 21st century marketplace.
During fall 2021, 13 sophomore Global Commerce majors successfully completed the inaugural WE-Building Certificate Program. Facilitated by internationally recognized cross-cultural consultant & author - and Denison alumna - Laura Kriska ‘87, the program consisted of three monthly 90-minute virtual sessions and a final in-person closing session. Based on Kriska’s new book, The Business of WE (HarperCollins, January 2021), the WE-Building program provided a practical roadmap for creating trust among those who are different.
The program helped GC majors develop a WE-mindset through fostering awareness, engaging in self-assessment, and taking action to bridge “Us versus Them” gaps on campus. Kriska engaged participants in discussions around difference, cross-cultural carelessness, and relationship building while weaving in stories from her lived experiences as the first American trainee at Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan and her work with Fortune 500 companies and thousands of professionals on four continents.
The four sessions looked like this:
- Students were tasked with individually identifying a “Them group” on campus and asked to complete a self-assessment regarding their level of interaction with individuals from their selected group.
- Participants reflected on their self-assessments and brainstormed simple actions they could take to foster face-to-face meaningful interactions with individuals from their identified “Them group.”
- Students shared the steps they had taken to engage with other individuals on campus and reflected on how they have been able to grow their internal infrastructures by taking action to bridge “US vs THEM” gaps. Kriska motivated students to consider the importance of fostering a campus community that is inclusive and respectful of all as a critical first step toward their future responsibility in fostering workplaces that are inclusive and respectful of all employees— “one of the most critical, yet most widely mismanaged keys to success.”
- Taking place in person at Knobel Hall on December 2, the final session provided a hands-on experience for the WE-Builders to come together for an international team-building simulation exercise, “Team Machine,” facilitated by Laura Kriska. Within a 2-hour time limit, the group spent an intense, almost 120 minutes before successfully completing the task at hand with less than two minutes to spare – the relief and excitement was palpable!”
“During the last session, we experienced a series of setbacks that initially led to a loss of momentum; thankfully, not everyone in the group thought in the same way and that allowed an optimism to emerge that we would be able to accomplish the task by utilizing our diverse perspectives” shared participant Peter Stabler ‘24.
He went on to say, “Overall, the entire WE-Building Program allowed me to look at a series of problems in a diverse way and to collaborate with people with whom I had previously not taken the opportunity to engage…and it was a success!”
In her own words, Kriska shared that “We-Building is more than cooperation. We-Building is seeing difference as an opportunity, not a barrier, to learn and expand.” The Global Commerce Program looks forward to future WE-Building collaborations with Laura Kriska.
Workshop Facilitator: Laura Kriska ’87, cross-cultural consultant and author is an internationally recognized expert and leading consultant on cross-cultural relations with more than 30 years of experience bridging gaps in diverse workplaces. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies on four continents, helping thousands of business leaders and professionals build trust across “Us versus Them” differences based on nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, age, or any factor of identity.