Have you ever been totally immersed in the culture of a different country? You not only see the differences, or hear the differences, or read the differences - you FEEL the differences. Differences that can inspire, educate, shock or delight and which can change your life forever. We are missing out when we are not culturally diverse at all levels of our society, and being more diverse in business, means being more cross-culturally capable and ready to grow through Asia.
As I interviewed the 100 leaders for Stepping Up I became increasingly aware that few organisations had cultural diversity strategies or programs in place. As a consequence, there is less feedback in the book about what people are doing, how building cultural diversity is being approached or how to address the challenges.
In this blog
To support you to move forward on building cultural diversity in your group, I will use this blog to bring you more insights about why cultural diversity is an enabler to growth in Asia; how Australian businesses and societies can boost productivity by developing a broader immigrant workforce or community; and how to build cultural diversity that will deliver long-term benefits.
From farming to factories
The word culture in the 18th century was used to describe the cultivation or improvement of agriculture and horticulture. By the 20th century it was used to describe the betterment of a people and the refinement of a nation's identity. Now it is also used to describe the functioning of a group of people in an organisation or club or community.
It is normally accepted that when we talk about culture, we are talking about the way people behave and this is almost always associated with a discussion about whether or not the behaviour helps or hinders what we are trying to achieve. That is, most of us believe that culture can impact outcomes. For example a good sports club culture contributes to it winning mores games and matches, and a good school culture contributes to a more a stable teacher workforce and better student grades. There is no doubt that an organisation's culture can and does impact its performance in the same way that a scientific culture in a CSIRO laboratory is used to improve agricultural performance.
Culture aids growth and development. It can be used as the solution to many problems. The opportunities are boundless.
Understand and wanting cultural 'diversity'
Culture - when used with regard to groups of people - is said to be the collection of shared mental frameworks and assumptions that shape the behaviour we expect and accept within the cultural group. Cultural 'diversity' is believed to deliver creativity and innovation from having many people who bring many different frameworks and assumptions. This diversity allows groups to generate new ideas, challenge 'group think', unleash potential and stimulate out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems and move hurdles.
Stepping Up provides over 200 pages on how to achieve culture change in countries, organisations and individuals in a general way, so in this blog I will concentrate on how to achieve 'cultural diversity'. I will search for and bring you examples of what others are doing to attract people of different cultural backgrounds, why they believe it is good for their group and how they are addressing the integration challenges that come with combining people who have different cultural heritage.
Once you have experienced the richness of living and working in another person's culture, it is inspiring and makes you want to go back again and again. When people talk of having 'the travel bug', they often mean that they 'want more cross-cultural experiences' because they find the learning and discovery stimulating. The same thing can happen when you have cross-cultural work groups if you are accepting that the people present have equal rights to be in the group and to participate in problem solving and decision-making.
I hope that you will check in here from time to time: share your thoughts, question things and let others know about how you are achieving cultural diversity.
This blog is for readers of Stepping Up to look for answers to current day problems and to share the solutions they have discovered with other readers across Australia, Asia and the world.
If you have a story to share or wish to be a guest blogger - please contact me directly.
Thanks for stopping by.
Author: Pamela Young