Pepper Pot Soup: The Benefits of Cross Cultural Teams

A Story about the Benefits of Cross Cultural Teams


benefits of cross culturalThe benefits of cross cultural teams— As the holiday season draws near, many people are getting busy preparing for holiday meals. Food binds us since it connects us as human beings. It also connects us culturally and globally. As we get busy cooking, my mind gets busy thinking about cultures, communications and traditions. Soon the 2nd Edition of my book, “Communicating Through a Global Lens” will be released, and I will share more about cross cultural interactions in the months to come.  When teams assemble people of diverse cultures, their differences can create misunderstandings, but commonalities can also be uncovered, as I learned. For now I want to share with you a true cross cultural story from my latest book, A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams:


“For many years I taught at New York University and ran an activity called ‘Pepper Pot Soup’. Grouped by ethnic backgrounds, students had to describe cultural traits that differentiated them from other cultures. Then I divided the class into random groups of mixed cultures; each group made a hypothetical ‘soup,’ noting how their own cultural differences affected their soup recipe. Within the context of the workplace, for example, these differences might be around decision-making, teamwork, or independence.


Every class concluded that despite our differences, we all share the most important human characteristic – the need for communication.  These differences make the soup more flavorful and open up conversations. Just as ingredients add their special zest to a soup, complimentary ingredients can create strong organizations.


Pepper Pot Soup got its name from a Caribbean student whose grandmother made a wonderful stew that filled the house with a peppery smell. She said that this soup was not just a meal; it was also like a medicine. And then she made a perceptive remark that I have shared with every class since: Sometimes combining ingredients yields much more than the sum of their individual characteristics. The message was clear that a multicultural organization has a great deal to offer, and its members do not have to shed their differences.”

A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, Page 192

Cultural diversity activities like this one are a great way to show the benefits of cross cultural teams and groups.   Although they do present unique challenges, when managed properly a cross cultural team can be much more effective and productive compared to a traditional team.  With this in mind, AIM Strategies® wishes you a very happy holiday season.

Posted in Managing Cultural Diversity