From Universalism to Poly-Culturalism

Cultural Dimensions (Cross Cultural Management)
Knowledge Center

Gandhi Heryanto
Management Consultant, Indonesia

From Universalism to Poly-Culturalism

There used to be 2 paradigms of organizational culture:
  • The first is UNIVERSALISM, a belief in colorblindness and uniformity in the treatment of all people, by suppressing any individual cultural characteristics.
  • As the world became more globalized, this evolved to a secondly paradigm, MULTICULTURALISM, which sort of acknowledges other cultures, preserves them, and does not demand that people subordinate themselves to one type of code or behaviour. Note that when we say or use the word 'multicultural', what we are effectively doing is segregating the cultures, even the cultures within ourselves. Multicultural implies that cultures are fixed, discrete entities that exist side by side - a kind of zoological approach to culture.
With many companies operating in a more global world than ever before, the idea of encouraging cultural fluency is taking hold. More people want to work abroad and workers are constantly comparing not just companies but countries to see what’s best for them. In turn, companies are looking hard at their diversity (or lack thereof) and what it means for themselves.

Due to the above, a 3rd paradigm can be distinguished:
  • POLYCULTURALISM implies that all cultures can coexist at the same time to create a whole—it is possible and even probable that a person, group, organization or country has multiple cultures living within it/him/her at any given time.
    Polyculturalism is a team effort, it can not exist if only one individual practices it. Everyone must be sympathetic with everyone else, everyone must be on board, everyone must be united for polyculturalism to be a reality.
Do you think that polyculturalism may be a sound approach for today’s global businesses?
Source: Blog on "Polycultural Me" by Robin D.G. Kelley.

  Amarnath Krishnaswamy
Professor, India


Polyculturalism is just a stepping stone… It would lead to a new "culture" within the organization....

HR Consultant, Zimbabwe

Instilling Polyculturalism in Organizations

The reality in the global business today is subordination of individual cultures and precedence is given to commonly acc...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Moving from Organizational Multiculturalism to Polyculturalism

Thanks Gandhi for your most interesting post to our Cultural Dimensions SIG. Indeed there is a big difference if your o...

  Andrew Blaine
Business Consultant, South Africa

Mutual Respect

I have read, and tried to absorb, the blog spot and have come to the conclusion that, with respect, the missing term in ...

HR Consultant, Zimbabwe

Multiculturalism to Poly-culturalism

Culture change will always be a challenge to deal with, so once organizations understand that we are now living in a glo...

  Andre-Ambrosio ABRAMCZUK
Teacher, Brazil

Multi- and Poly-Uniculturalism

From my early years I was taught that "si fueris Rōmae, Rōmānō vīvitō mōre; si fueris...

  bill kinlough

Behaviour and Culture

I think when we say polyculturalism and then start talking about behaviour, we could get our wires crossed; if we acknow...

  Borje Vickberg, Sweden

Polyculturalism in Sweden

There are, at least, two dimensions on this subject; The company you manage and the country you live in. My personal exp...

  Francis Joseph
United Kingdom

Diversity in Culturism is Rich

This debate is not about culture change, culture change cannot be initiated or coerced, therefore perish the thought. Mu...

Manager, China

Cultural Sensitivity as a Skill

Nice first post and interesting idea, Gandhi. When reading this, I felt that Polyculturalism implies a skill within peo...

  Sonny Vicente
Coach, Philippines

Value-based Sensitivity to Cultural Differences

I tend to subscribe to your proposed 3rd paradigm, Polyculturalism, Ghandi and totally agree with Andrew Blaine's introd...

  K.Narayana Moorthy
HR Consultant, India

From Universalism to Poly-Culturalism

Whether you are an executive or an entrepreneur, the ability to bridge the cultural gaps and leverage foreign ideas and ...

  Gian Singh
Lecturer, Malaysia

Forget Poly Culturalism

Since immemorial times, this theme of poly culturalism did not work and biased racism is built in the human being. Remem...

  kenji hachiya
Business Consultant, Viet Nam

The Matter is How to Influence Majority

As a Japanese consultant who is supporting Japanese companies operating in Vietnam, the difficulty is how to blend Japan...

  Pieter Erasmus
Management Consultant, South Africa

Establishing and Merging New Cultures in South Africa

Then there is a group that migrated from the Northern African continent to the Southern African continent. These guys to...

  eddie m
Interim Manager, Kenya

We Need to Embrace Polyculturalism

Can’t agree more, indeed as somebody said 'the world is a small village' we need this to not only to co-exist but to add...

Entrepreneur, Germany

Polyculturalism is a Must if we Want to Leverage our Differences

Giving everyone the chance to remain unique, and contribute in their own way is key to our success in future - it's the ...

  Johannes Vandeweijer
Entrepreneur, Germany

Coexisting Reaching Project Goals

Finally, if there was an invasion from Mars, all cultures would stand side by side fighting for the same (project) goal....

  Gandhi Heryanto
Management Consultant, Indonesia

From Multiculturalism to Poly-culturalism

Thanks for all great reactions. I just would like to add further about traditional model and polyculturalism. The tradi...

  K.Narayana Moorthy
HR Consultant, India

From Multiculturalism to Poly-culturalism

Thanks Mr Gandhi Heryanto, Totally I agree with your views. Yes, I agree Poly-colturalism offers a better lens of unders...

  Ashwini Saxena
Operations Officer, India

Poly Culturism is Just the Outcome!

Coming from the Hindu philosophy of "Vasudheva Kutumbukam" meaning that the whole world is a family, to me poly culturis...

  Brad Altemeyer, United States

Beyond Polly and Her Cultures

I just wrote a short article for our new faculty publication here at South Texas College (great place for international ...

  K.Narayana Moorthy
HR Consultant, India

Co-existing Reaching Project Goals: Mutual Respect

Yes, Mr. Johannes Vandeweijer, I agree with your views. In fact, during my early service years, when I was in charge of ...

  Borje Vickberg, Sweden


@Gian Singh: Extremely pessimistic and cynical attitude. We have in contrast to the Neandertals, many options of communi...


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