The whole point of
the BaFa' BaFa' experience is to help
participants understand that having a diverse work force contributes
to the bottom line of the organization in very direct ways. Here
is how it works: BaFa' BaFa' is based
on the assumption that cultural differences develop because
peoples have invented different ways of solving common problems.
This assumption seems fairly obvious when considering the differences
in something as basic as our languages.
are not so obvious. The distance we stand from another person
when speaking, proprietary attitudes about personal space, relationships
with superiors and subordinates, the way men treat women, and
whether one views rules as absolute or relative: all reflect ways
that various cultures have solved problems.
many diversity programs, as well as those designed to train
to go overseas, we have identified differences-then tried to
get people to tolerate those differences. Emphasizing differences,
even when we try to teach tolerance of those differences, often
causes hostility, creates greater distance and greater misunderstandings.
our cultural differences as a reflection of the way we solve similar
problems promotes a sense of our common humanity. We then begin
to realize that we are all in this together, and that we all have
to face similar challenges. Instead of looking upon cultural differences
as things to be tolerated, we can relate to each other as cultural
problem solvers. Understanding this basic notion allows us to
view cultural differences as a rich reservoir of solutions to
real world concerns. Solutions that will directly improve the
This is the basic
approach of BaFa' BaFa' , in that we
create a problem for everyone in the simulation. We require them
to live and interact in another culture. Then, we ask them how
they felt in that culture. The answer is always the same: they
felt lost, confused, invisible, etc. Then we ask how they responded
to those feelings; in other words, how did they solve the problem?
Some withdrew, others got angry, some wanted revenge, while others
totally discounted the other's cultural values.
At this time, we point out that if we focus on the solutions
to the problems, i.e., withdrawal, anger, revenge, and cultural
discounting; our differences appear greater. However, when we
discuss the common problems that we faced, i.e., how to feel
competent, and valued when interacting with another culture,
we then draw closer together.
The next step is to identify the solutions that people have developed
in their own culture and evaluate them against the corporation's
The final step is to identify ways of reinforcing those cultural
practices that support the corporation's values.