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The paradox of cultural diversity

The paradox of cultural diversity 

We live in a nation which is experiencing ever greater cultural diversity in our daily lives and in our workplaces. There is a paradox in the impact of this diversity on the performance of organisations. On one hand greater diversity in the workforce brings potential benefits through bringing in a broader knowledge of current world trends and giving access to a wider range of problem solving approaches. More specifically cultural diversity may be an antidote to ‘group think’ where traditional and deep-seated practices are challenged by looking at issues from new perspectives. After all if ‘we always do what we always did, then we’ll always get what we always got’. So cultural diversity offers the potential for increased creativity and innovation.

However if diversity is not managed or led properly then the potential benefits could easily turn into problems such as misunderstandings, suspicion, conflict, absenteeism and low morale.
Managers and employees with high levels of cultural intelligence (CQ) are able to work effectively with others from different cultures and are focused on achieving the benefits of cultural diversity in their organisations. CQ can be developed in employees through, firstly, identifying their existing level of cultural intelligence by participating in a 360 degree survey. The survey not only measures current CQ levels (CQ Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action) but also highlights where development is needed and gives detailed guidance on how improvement can be achieved. Secondly qualified CQ practitioners provide tailored training interventions to address the improvement areas.
Both the CQ survey and follow-up training are available from Newcastle Business School – contact Dr Michael Green at

Now in the previous article we asked the question – can you tell which country these proverbs come from?
1. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
2. The tallest flower in the field is the first to be cut down
3. Order is half of life
4. He who stirs another’s porridge often burns his own
5. Even if the bridge be made of stone, make sure it is safe

The proverbs reveal much about the cultural values of the countries from which they originate and contribute to the CQ component of Knowledge. Number 1 is from the USA which is a highly individualistic culture where the loudest voices are often the ones which are listened to. The Swedish proverb at 4 also displays an individualistic side to this culture. On the contrary the proverb at number 2 indicates that in Japan individualism is not admired and one should remain collectively in line with the crowd. Proverbs 3 and 5 are from cultures (Germany and Korea, respectively) which do not easily tolerate uncertainty in their lives and seek to remove this with rules, regulations and careful checking.
Using such knowledge the cross-cultural manager is able to develop strategies to make intercultural encounters more successful and tailor their behaviour in such encounters accordingly.
Wouldn’t you benefit from becoming more culturally intelligent?


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