From Universalism to Poly-Culturalism

Cultural Dimensions (Cross Cultural Management)
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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
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Thanks for all great reactions. I just would like (...)

  K.Narayana Moorthy
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