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Cultural diversity and the challenge of innovation - Essay Example

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Cultural Diversity and the Challenge of Innovation 1. Introduction Only a few decades ago, international businesses were known by their national identities. A company that had operations outside its home country was easily known as Canadian, or Australian or American or whatever its country of origin was…
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Download file to see previous pages The effect of this change, aided as it is by the blinding speed of globalization’s driver ICT represented by the Internet, was more than enough to put every organization ready to become global or international. The change has set everybody on equal footing with the rest in terms of opportunities. With the change, business has to move faster if it does not want to be left behind. “Innovate or die,” warns Tom Peters, as if the options were a breeze. Of course, dying was not a desired option, and innovation, the one and only last, has the greatest impact on organizations as it touches on people and culture. One natural consequence of globalization and ICT is the sudden increase in the number and diversity of people in organizations. From educational institutions to tourism to every other business, there would be heightened people movement, and this was not only happening across nations. Some two decades ago, Cox (1994) talked about the relevance of cultural diversity in organizations. He wrote along the lines of an increasingly diverse workforce by reason of race, gender and nationality – a trend that was addressed at that time by such strategic concepts as cross-functional teams for competitive edge. He also noted the growing emphasis of companies to internationalize – a business activity that naturally required crossing of cultures – and the recognition given to cultural diversity as an influence to organizational productivity. The aim of this paper is to examine cultural diversity and determine how relevant it is in the effort of organizations to respond to the current changes that affect them. The paper shall attempt to answer the question “Is cultural diversity relevant to organizations?” by describing its dynamics and implications upon organizations, and if found to be still relevant, to identify how it can be made more useful in responding to the challenge of innovation. 2. Cultural Diversity Diversity is said to be right at the core of human development (Lamb and Bornstein, 2011). Every person is unique. By reason of his genetic configuration and psychology, a person will be different from another in the face of their similarities. That differentiation is what shows in his gender, age, color, birth, race, culture, health, sexual orientation and other dimensions. When this uniqueness is ranged against a social, economic or any collective setting, it produces a condition known as diversity (Diller, 2011). Culture People are different in many ways. When they meet with regularity, as in a workplace or as members of an aggrupation, people exhibit certain norms of conduct and follow certain procedures that taken together is known as culture. Culture is defined in different ways by different authors. Bodley (1994) sees culture as what people think and do, what they produce, their beliefs and values. Cant et al (2007) refer to culture as myths, values, customs, rituals, language and laws that combine to form the basis for their behavior. Culture is seen as a peculiar way of behaving or believing which members share with one another (Briscoe and Schuler, 2004). Hofstede (1991) defines culture as the “collective programming of the human mind that sets the distinction of the members in relation to other groups.” In sum, culture can be described as a set of values, beliefs, and concepts that enable a group to make sense and meaning of its existence. It is also a collective expression that ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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