Intercultural Development Inventory - IDI

Permit me to talk about something called the IDI., something which might technically bore my readers to pieces (but never-the-less is important). What's the IDI you may ask? Well, in short, it's a test, a quiz if you will that is supposed to determine your ability to be culturally sensitive and aware (measure of intercultural competence). The Intercultural Development Inventory is used by universities, governments, and corporations to gauge an individuals culture-ness. It's scientifically backed, and accurate I'm told; however, I have strong legitimate concerns about the validity of it. This is not to say it is not effective, in a general sense, with the majority of the population, but it's been my experience when you attempt to define a person, by placing them into categories, by telling them who they are, you end up contradicting your intentions. In fact, if there is an ideal cultural superhero that institutions would hunger for, it would be an individual aware of such lines, and who can properly navigate between them. The IDI unfortunately creates more lines, more borders, and more categories that a person must fit into, in order to be a part of the manufactured culture of the IDI (careers or fields that require us to be culturally aware). In essence, there's an in-crowd with IDI, whose ideology is set by Mitchell R. Hammer.

Let us begin. The IDI is ran as a Maryland LLC (limited liability company), that is to say it's a for profit business (they even have coupons discounts). It's just over $13 to take, and the quiz is about 50 questions, mostly bubble fields on the Internet. It must be administered by someone who has paid $2000 for this privilege (yes, it evokes my father-in-law's Amway pyramid scheme). It reminds me a lot of those fashion magazine quizzes I took in my youth. Many of the questions are similar, worded slightly differently, and generally feel disconnected with real -life experiences. As a result of this inventory being ran as a business, one must hold a certain level of objective skepticism with the results. There are, in fact, several companies in the U.S. alone who offer academically backed intercultural quizzes which claim they'll tell you if you're in the "in-crowd" for a fee. Why would I pay this fee? I'm told it looks great on resumes, and it gauges my growth as a student. The marketing is wonderful, the packaging great, but isn't a person's behavior and ability to be culturaltastic go beyond a simple disagree -> agree mall survey?

The IDI doesn't care that you've been to eleven countries, or on a daily basis speak three different languages.  There's no questions about true cultural awareness, such as taboos, or defining events in foreign countries. It doesn't care that you spent three months learning Welsh, or lived abroad (there is a question on living abroad, but it's not clear if it's a statistical or diagnostic question). It doesn't care you've walked the Vimy ridge in France, or walked in the shoes of a countless dead Jews in Auschwitz. It doesn't care if you know that the red and white dragons of Wales and England are metaphors, or that Scotland secretly wants to secede. Have you ever wanted to cwtch your mate or snog your cheeky lover? Perhaps you're now careful of using the word: fanny, because you know it isn't a waist pack, but genitalia. Does Shakespeares' Dark Lover captivate you or were you astonished that gaped teeth are sexy in classic British literature? The IDI asks no questions if you understand the cultural love/hate relationship most Europeans have with Americans, or how Parisian women feel dying your hair blond is silly, however it's probably a bit of leftover distaste from when the Nazi's invaded. Speaking of Germans, did you know they have spaghetti ice-cream? It doesn't ask if you know important cultural information like Brussels is now a mostly Arabic speaking city despite being officially French speaking, in a Flemish region. Most people don't know "bravo" is used for men, and "brava" is for women in Italian, but technically it doesn't matter anyways because of the Intercultural Development Inventory's single-lens approach to judging you.. I suppose I could go on forever, but the plain fact is that the IDI doesn't ask true cultural relative questions. It asks psychological questions which have a pre-determined answer, a determined expectation whereas if you deviate from this "expectation", then you don't fit the model. Perhaps the most disconcerting part of the IDI is that if you hold any other opinion of any other culture, including your own (for instance reversal), then suddenly your culturally inept. Let me clarify that this isn't xenophobia they're striking you for, it's merely having a minimal opinion that you might prefer the mechanics of one culture over another. In this way, the IDI is narrow,  lacking a "peripheral" vision of those who don't fit a preset normative.

Outliers are a part of any diagnostic, and what they won't tell you when you take the IDI is that most people end up in minimization (which is very likely why you may have Googled this article). The bell shaped curve of this model (with minimization in the middle) has outliers. Outliers, who are people that don't fit into the profile of someone who should be in that stage (Hammer admits this). This is to say the IDI is imperfect despite it being a tested theory. You can never be 100% sure your result is authentic or simply a statistical anomaly. Scientist hate outliers because they don't fit the expected norm. That norm or the normal people, are the line on a graph any researcher like Hammer will use to demonstrate how most people fit into (their predefined) categories. Outliers are often removed from final charts because most people (in this case 87%-93% of people) fall into that curve. We're then told if we don't fit into this ideal (curve) of "normal" that we the test takers who are abnormal, have failed. In fact there is no portion of the IDI that separates the true ethnocentric from the outlier.

My question is, especially in the educational community, why would you attempt to suggest to a student they are or aren't in the in-crowd of culture? To condemn them to a tag, or label of cultural inferiority is enough to make some students who've defined their entire academic career (perhaps existence) within the international arena, want to commit suicide. This whole concept of defining a person in this manner is an act of cultural ethnocentrism in my opinion.

I've been told, to improve my score I should keep a journal (ironic), have more personal interactions, read more books (nothing about writing them), and travel more (I'd love to!). I'm told a lot of things these days. I've been told my entire life the limits of my existence, people telling me who I am. I'm no stranger to personal improvement, but I encourage those who volunteer to be a part of this inventory to understand that by participating in it, you're letting others judge you: an infinite human being, against a finite data set. Don't let it define you, because being culturally aware is so much more than a purely academic argument for cultural wholeness.


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