Culture Resource Centre

The MBI Model for high performing multicultural teams

CULTURAL COLUMN. The MBI model for high performing multicultural teams, first put forward by Maznevski and DiStefano (2000), stands for Mapping, Bridging, Integrating. The model has gained wide acceptance in business, communications and management fields for its simplicity and adaptability to different contexts (2019).

The MBI Model for high performing multicultural teams serves as the foundation for structuring intercultural learning and development programs during design, development, and implementation phases for our clients. Whether presenting, training, coaching, or lecturing, the MBI model guarantees that participants relate more intuitively to cultural differences at work. It helps to make the unconscious more conscious. 

Why is the MBI Model so useful?

The main strength of the MBI model is its ability to leverage cultural differences for better decision-making and increasing group performance. A great number of models are instrumental in positioning cultural value differences, however they stop short at fulfilling the objective of increasing group performance. It is worth mentioning that it is not the differences that are problematic, but rather how we manage these to work together. The MBI is doing just that: where understanding (from mapping) and communicating (from bridging) get converted into productive results (from integrating)”.

“…where understanding (from mapping) and communicating (from bridging) get converted into productive results (from integrating)”.
(Maznevski and DiStefano, 2000).

The MBI is invaluable to intercultural competence development

We embrace the MBI model in our intercultural learning & development practice for it greatly assists in structuring our intercultural learning and development programs. We can easily include relevant models and tools to the MBI process as we see fit for specific clients’ requirements.

How does the MBI Model work?

The Model is a three-component process, which adopts three principles and creates a means to bridge differences in culturally diverse work environments. The three components are:

  1. Mapping – Understand the differences: The first component of the MBI model is describing and understanding differences of relevant cultures, and the impact on required aspects in measurable ways. We select and assess a range of cultural models that provide cultural awareness and know-how into a wide variety of cultural values and practices.
  2. Bridging – Communicate across the differences: The second component of the MBI model is communicating effectively across the differences to bring people and ideas together and to prevent miscommunication. We assess different communication styles and the impact on behaviour. We explore and practice communication skills to bridge the differences.
  3. Integrating – Manage the differences: The third component of the MBI model ensures people to leverage their differences and come up with good decisions. We include strategies and develop intercultural competence to negotiate and realign practices and behaviour to manage the differences and work together: to close the cultural gaps.

“Value the differences and the differences will create value”
(DiStefano 2004)

High performance in business, communication, and management fields

According to the literature, often multicultural groups do not perform as well as homogeneous groups. This sounds counter-intuitive to the assumption that diversity provides:

  • wide range of perspectives,
  • greater variety of potential solutions to problems, therefore
  • potential for synergy.

Why is there a gap between potential and actual?

Vital functions in teams such as building trust, assurance of conflict, show commitment, take accountability, focus on collective outcomes, are all more complex in culturally diverse teams. Especially when a lack of awareness and knowledge about cultural differences creates conflict.

How can potential be enhanced?

Cultural value differences can seriously hinder but also truly increase results: The MBI model offers a way to recognise and analyse cultural differences among team members and create a means to bridge differences, combine effect to close the gaps. Furthermore, measurable increases in productivity and effectiveness can be gained by not only effectively managing cultural differences among staff, but by leveraging the differences to provide added value.

What is in it for your team?

By applying the MBI components during training interventions, your multicultural team has the potential to become one of the teams that do outperform homogeneous teams by creating and implementing unique and innovative solutions to complex intercultural organisational challenges. We call that creating a cultural competitive advantage.


Distefano, J. J., & Maznevski, M. L. (2000). Creating value with diverse teams in global management. Organizational Dynamics, 29(1), 45–63. 

Lane, H., & Maznevski, M. (2019). International Management Behavior: Global and Sustainable Leadership. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 112

Joost Thissen, Partner & Interculturalist
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Categories: Cultural Columns,From the Literature.