There’s a lot to be said for cultural diversity. It can be a disruptive force in itself, a great promoter of change and a powerful opportunity for learning. Innovators discuss the importance of ‘thinking outside the box.’ Diversity in thought and practice offers the opportunity to do just that.
I’ve been working in Singapore for the last few years, helping to guide change in organisations from across the world. There is a genuine feeling of East meets West, with the government working to ensure high employment for Singaporeans through the promotion of international business. This small country has a truly global outlook that is reflected in its high-punching success.
I’ve been able to experience first-hand the different ways that organisations and people work. Culture plays a strong part in this, whether it’s about greetings, styles of address, methods of approaching a problem or ways of enjoying down time. This is why I found David Robson’s recent article about why different cultures think in different ways fascinating.
As Robson points out, it’s only fairly recently that scientists have taken into account global diversity in thinking. Freud may have been criticised for effectively limiting his research to wealthy Viennese women, but dominant scientific studies since then have still tended to assume that “western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic (or ‘weird’ for short) people are representative of everyone else.
Yet, in reality, that research excludes the experience of most of the world’s population; a fact that scientists are only now beginning to explore. New theories are emerging about the effects of everything from agriculture to germs, but what’s clear is that where you come from does influence how you think.
Does this mean that people from different cultures can’t truly understand each other? At Potential Squared, we believe strongly in the power of communication; about saying things that are challenging and unexpected. It’s not enough just to talk to people who already think the same way you do. Using our principle of being Refreshingly Direct, we’ve found that we can help invigorate discussions that transcend cultural difference by drawing on, versus avoiding, differing viewpoints.
As the behavioural scientists have learned, you can never please all of the people all of the time. But you can seek to understand them. This understanding demands an open mind and an open approach. Any organisation that wants to achieve international status will need to adopt a global perspective, and that’s about having conversations that reach beyond borders.