When a pack of cards becomes a cultural bootcamp

Phil Stockbridge, Director, Global Integration, spots that one organization, the British Army, is bridging a ‘cultural gap’:

Playing games for better health
‘Lads’ culture meets ‘health’ culture in an army playing card

In our culture workshops, we often use a tool for reconciling cultural differences which is very well received by our participants. Whilst we focus in our programmes on some of the drivers of cultural differences we find in work, we always make the point that this tool can also be used to reconcile other ‘cultural’  differences. One common challenge to us is: ‘How do we truly reconcile apparently unbridgeable gaps?’. And whilst we readily concede that it’s a possibility, we also prepare participants to be creative in their reconciliations.

I was delighted to find a great example of a cultural reconciliation recently when visiting a UK Army base: in a box by the reception were packs of playing cards, with a sign ‘Free Cards, please help yourself’. These were being readily collected by the lads, eager to play cards later in the evening. (I also helped myself – purely from a research perspective!) They  were sponsored by Army Health Promotion – Fit for Life, Fit to Fight. Each card in the pack contained a cartoon related to health promotion; fitness, diet, personal safety, etc.. Whilst – inevitably – some cartoons were funnier than others – they all carried an important message – a message which the card players would struggle not to take notice of.

Army Health Promotion wanted to get their messages across to the soldiers – and found a way to connect with their culture by creating packs of playing cards containing the messages – a true example of a culture reconciliation where neither sides ‘cultures’ were compromised.

Interestingly, the Army employed cartoons to embed the learning points, something we at Global Integration have been doing for the last few years. After all, we know that if the learning process can be enjoyed, then the learning is likely to last.


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