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It’s different and exactly what I need right now! by Peter Gruben
DiversityBusiness.com Article/- Sure you have experienced a real eye opener at some stage. The time when somebody told you something or when you returned from a coaching session and you think “wow, I need to implement this. It makes so much sense. I can’t believe I didn’t see that before”.

During my career to date I have worked with 24 different nationalities, colleagues with no official education, scientists, lawyers, bricklayers, accountants and many other professions. Everybody was good at something and it was not always the colleague you would have expected who would turn out to be outstanding. Everybody was contributing to the common goal we had established and committed to while we had a range of experience that we could choose from. How good would your team be if you would be able to pick the most skilled people from a global source and by how much could you multiply your business if you could expand your target group all over the globe? I learnt that our acceptance of diverse views is appreciated and the benefits include more respect, an increase in business scope, increased productivity, higher quality, reduced costs, satisfied customers and employees that are loyal to us. It also leads to innovation, an opportunity to differentiating our company and leaving competition behind by a mile. Diversity in business does not mean that we just ‘know’ our client. It means that we really understand the different perspectives of all our stake holders. When we for example want to assemble a multi cultural talent pool then we need to understand how people from different nationalities grew up, and what their expectations and perspectives are when joining our work force. Why would somebody want to work with us if he/she feels that we do not respect their view at all?

Accepting something that we find strange or that we don’t understand immediately can be a difficult task for anybody. I believe we have barriers inside ourselves that are based on our upbringing that we need to overcome. I remember this survey that we did in a corporation 10 years ago across 20 nationalities when we asked each employee: “what do you miss the most when being away from home”? And the overwhelming majority voted food as the one thing they missed the most. Not really a surprise when I think about it today, Food from home is something that we can all relate to and it is different wherever we go. From a business perspective it is also a diverse need that we have accepted and responded to. All major corporations that employ multi cultural teams serve a diverse range of menus in their canteen. We have done much more than providing diverse food, we have created technologies that allow us to conduct business with an increasing diverse global business community. We have even created processes (on-boarding) that describe exactly what we should consider when bringing a new colleague ‘on board’.

Saying that, I believe we still have a long way to go though. I can see bullet points everywhere, calculators, processes and programmed minds when making diverse decisions and I think that we need to become better and consider even more differences. Today’s business environment seems to be driven by dependencies rather than needs and wants, believes and views. I can see a real risk that businesses do not consider the opportunity of diversity enough. There are talents on this globe that businesses cannot access through current methods used and we might need them right now. They know about the people, the systems, and the processes we need and will show that we can be better when using a different approach. Too many people are still too afraid to try something new. Taking a risk does not seem to be an option even if an investment in a different view could be the solution for many. I believe that a diverse response could really benefit businesses on every level from corporate social responsibility to satisfied employees and satisfied customers. Could companies change from ‘directing’ to’ responding ‘when designing business flow and environments? In my experience people resist different views as long as they don’t understand the difference. If we cannot adapt and benefit from different perspectives in a global environment we will end up being stuck in the old world of dependencies and lose out on the benefits described above.

So what do we have to do to create a culture of diversity acceptance? A genuine change has always to come from the top or it will not work. I believe that company cultures are reflecting the philosophies of leaders. Those philosophies are deeply cemented within a leaders mind. Sometimes a leader has a very human and engaging philosophy and the cultural working environment will reflect that. Others focus on spread sheets and are not really bothered who or how those results are achieved and again the working culture will reflect this philosophy also. Of course we all have an opinion of what kind of cultures a company should foster in 2010 and in my opinion it can only be lived and breathed throughout a company when the leader really believes that these cultures are required to enable the most successful business environment. The performance of a multicultural team often depends on how well the management team can relate to its diverse employees and customers. So does our management team understand where its employees come from and what customers really value or is there only one assumed value that is delivered at each financial term?

The great thing about diversity is that we can learn different ways of doing things on an ongoing basis and we can choose what we want to adapt. Imagine this small shop owner in London, New York or Tokyo that has every opportunity to learn from his or her multi cultural customer base.

Think about the range of people that are going in and out. How many different characters (experiences) would he/she meet? Having a diverse group of customers coming into this shop is like walking into a library. Everybody has a different perspective of what is working and what is not and the shop owner can read all those ‘books’ for free. He/she can choose, adapt and shelf products and services that his/her customers want and need. We can translate this example into any business size that operates with a diverse customer base locally or globally. That in turn will be our door opener to numerous opportunities. Once we understand we will be able to accept (not necessarily agree) and we will be able to respond appropriately. Let others surprise us with what they have on offer. Appreciate the differences that others are willing to share because it could show us something that we need exactly right now.

I am German and I lived in 3 different countries. I worked with 24 different nationalities. One of the sentences that I heard the most when working with all these nationalities was “ This is not how we work in (my country)” and my response was always the same: Ok let’s talk about it, I need to understand and then we see how we can make it work”. I listen very carefully to others and appreciate when they share their thoughts and experience with me. I make sure I understand exactly what they mean before I make my mind up and respond. This has always benefited me and I sincerely hope that you give it a try! I think it is important for us to keep practicing how to open our minds. With experience we learn that diversity is beneficial to us and to others. If we have a diverse work force then we have a gold mine of differences and it depends on us how confident our team feels to share their experiences with us. Let diversity become our conscious choice. It can change our life, our success, our outlook, how we live and the way we perceive others.

| Contact: | Peter Gruben | Independent Consultant, Ireland | Peter.gruben@gmail.com |

About DiversityBusiness.com
Launched in 1999, DiversityBusiness, with over 50,000 members, is the largest organization of diversity owned businesses throughout the United States that provide goods and services to Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. DiversityBusiness provides research and data collection services for diversity including the "Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities", "Top 500 Diversity Owned Companies in America", and others. Its research has been recognized and published by Forbes Magazine, Business Week and thousands of other print and internet publications. The site has gained national recognition and has won numerous awards for its content and design. DiversityBusiness reaches more diverse suppliers and communicates more information to them on a more frequent basis then all other organizations combined. We also communicate with mainstream businesses, government agencies and educational institutions with information related to diversity. Our magazine reaches over 300,000 readers, a monthly e-newsletter that reaches 2.4 million, and website visitors of 1.2 million a month. It is a leading provider of Supplier Diversity management tools and has the most widely distributed Diversity magazine in the United States. DiversityBusiness.com is produced by Computer Consulting Associates International Inc. (CCAii.com) of Southport, CT. Founded in 1980.

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