The Daisy Model: A Tool to Create Shared Meaning

The Daisy Model is a visual activity that can be used in a classroom to increase diversity awareness, in a group as a team building exercise to help members get to know each other, as a visual aid for resolving a conflict, or when we talk with someone who goes abroad and encounters cultural differences. Values, worldviews, group and personal traits all coincide in the center (see image below) and shape the interaction between two individuals, or an individual and a different culture. Let us look at an example:

I am having a conversation with a student from a different culture. The conversation occurs in English. She is in a study break, I am looking for a book in the library but I ran into her, and the conversation only lasts ten minutes. We do not see each other very often lately, but when we do, we enjoy talking about common friends and getting an update on each other’s lives.

When I think of this conversation, which happened in only ten minutes, I can put it in the center of a daisy (flower). And what are the petals around it? The petals are the other conversations, our respective cultural and personal backgrounds, and the circumstances, that shape what occurs in the center. So one of the petals may be that she is a student; another one that I graduated years ago but still go to the library because I often pick up psychology books; while the conversation is in English, our first languages are far from each other (two more petals!); I like living in this city; she wants to finish her degree and go back to her town, which is a medium-sized town by the sea where she will be able to eat the food she likes most (in her culture, having a meal with family is an important event for bonding; in my culture or family, maybe not so much); etc. In such a short conversation, so many factors, values, worldviews and identity traits can arise!

This Daisy Model can be used as an activity or a tool in intercultural groups to help us represent the diversity in conversations in multicultural groups that apparently seem quite casual and brief. When two individuals know which petals each person is bringing into the conversation, this can help them understand more about each other’s background and what the intersections of the intercultural exchange look like. Understanding better the connection and/or overlap between these petals can provide greater learning and improved intercultural experiences.

The Daisy Model is a tool that is part of the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM), a practical theory that sees communication as a performative entity (doing things) and constitutive of social interactions. From this perspective, communication is not a channel by which we exchange information, but rather an active tool that helps us build and interpret the world and our relationships with others. With this theoretical focus, Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen developed a collection of tools that can help us create coordinated (or co-built) meaning between people of different cultures. Besides the Daisy Model, Pearce and Cronen developed the Serpentine Model, the Hierarchy Model and the LUUUTT ModelBecause communication is such a core component to Intercultural Learning, using these models with others or with ourselves can help us enrich our Communication Styles.

What cultural dimensions do you think this tool can help you explore? Do you know other activities that could be used similarly? Share them in our comments area!

“Communication is about meaning,… but not just in a passive sense of perceiving messages. Rather, we live in lives filled with meanings and one of our life challenges is to manage those meanings so that we can make our social worlds coherent and live within them with honor and respect. But this process of managing our meanings is never done in isolation. We are always and necessarily coordinating the way we manage our meanings with other people. So, I concluded, communication is about the coordinated management of meaning.” –B. Pearce