This evening I was fortunate enough to attend a very unique and exciting event known as Unity in Diversity. This was an event put together by the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate Student Association (GSA). This event sought to break down stereotypes and open people’s minds to the idea of embracing diversity. I got to eat food from other countries, listen to music from different places, and see fashion from around the world. I listened to stories about how people were stereotyped because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wore, the places they were from, and the illnesses they lived with. It was, without question, an enlightening experience.
“…having knowledge of that person’s culture and values, as well as being aware of how they differ from your own, will allow you to connect with them on a much deeper level.”
In an attempt to keep the conversation going, I want to write a little bit about my understanding of diversity in entrepreneurship (as limited as it may be). This is a topic I was fairly ignorant on until last year when I was fortunate enough to take a class related to international management. Not surprisingly, this class was taught by a professor who was originally from another country. I found this very enriching because she was able to provide insight not only about how other cultures conduct themselves, but how the rest of the world views the United States.
Prior to this, I really had no idea how culture impacted business (or entrepreneurship). I assumed that there was an impact, I just never understood how it was broken down. I was introduced to an extremely valuable tool known as Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, which is used for predicting values, behaviors, and inclinations of certain cultures. In this model, there are six dimensions reflecting values and culture that include (and I quote):
- Power distance index (PDI): the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally
- Individualism vs. collectivism (IDV): degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups
- Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI): a society’s tolerance for ambiguity
- Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS): a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success
- Long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation (LTO): this dimension associates the connection of the past with the current and future actions/challenges
- Indulgence vs. restraint (IND): a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun
These 6 dimensions are quantified on a scale of 1-100, and are categorized by country. My purpose is not to break these down or go into detail, but to instead let entrepreneurs know that there are resources available to help them understand cultural differences. In addition to this, there are numerous books available that can help teach you about different cultural nuances and mannerisms, such as how to interact with someone when first introducing yourself.
I believe this is a very important concept for entrepreneurs to understand. It is likely that at some point in starting or running your business, you will have to interact with people who come from a culture different from your own. This may be a customer, an investor, or even a business partner. Whatever the case may be, having knowledge of that person’s culture and values, as well as being aware of how they differ from your own, will allow you to connect with them on a much deeper level. That deeper connection could be the difference in making a sale, getting funded, or creating a new business.
In addition to these things, by embracing diversity, we open ourselves up to completely new possibilities. By adding new perspectives, we can work together to solve problems that weren’t thought to be solvable. We can communicate with one another in ways that weren’t thought to be possible. And lastly, we can break down barriers that weren’t thought to be breakable. It is in this sense that we can grow to be citizens of world, rather than just citizens of our own nations.
While I only touched on one facet of diversity, cultural diversity, I encourage entrepreneurs to consider all facets. By doing so, it will allow you to create a business that is robust and resilient in an ever-growing, diverse global economy.
What is your experience with diversity in business? Do you feel it is something that should be dealt with or embraced? Please share in the comments below.