Magic from paying attention to differences in a culturally diverse team


Article by Rika Asaoka
Kaleidoscope Initiative Cultural Diversity Training Facilitator
Director/Training Facilitator Language and Culture Pty Ltd


Do you enjoy the social buzz of work, having a cup of coffee together, laughing together and achieving things together?

What is the invisible stuff between people that makes us feel connected? That stuff consists of bonding, which is connecting to people who are like us and bridging, which is connecting to people who differ from us.

Unlike bonding, bridging requires intentional effort and pro-diversity belief. That is when bridging becomes powerful.

Business magazines like Forbes and Harvard Business Review have been singing its praise for years for diversity as the key to creative cooperation, increased profits, and/or innovation.

Teams without diversity in contrast suddenly seem dull, old fashioned and produce nothing so exciting.

There are five reasons why diversity is interesting for teams:

  1. In diverse teams, the majority is less inclined to choose the wrong approach. They avoid “Group thinking”.
  2. Diversity in a team improves decision-making even if only a single member disagrees: He or She faces the others to either come up with better arguments or to change track.
  3. Even irritating opinions and irrelevant counterarguments routinely improve the team’s overall analyses and decision-making. Members sharpen their thinking and raise their awareness of alternative perspectives.
  4. With more perspectives, the team will be more likely to find the correct solution.
  5. More perspectives and more diverse experiences help the team pick up and correctly interpret signals from a particular foreign context.

Easier said than done!

Having the power of bridging with pro-diversity beliefs, the above five will surely take place in culturally diverse teams.

However, in contrast, in teams where the leader or other members are less positive about their team’s diversity, and are not managing their diverse team well, members of the group tend to fall apart developing stress, fear, anger and uncertainties. This ultimately leads to seeking recognition and protection by forming in-groups, using, or inventing differences to justify those in-groups and being unable to perform.

Leaders and team members need to systematically apply the two principles: avoid fault-lines and promote pro-diversity beliefs at work. It is important that they understand and constructively deal with their cultural differences.

Stop ignoring the differences, understand them, manage them, and enjoy achieving business goals together. Do this, and the above 5 magics of diversity will be yours.

Cultural Competency training kick starts the critical cultural competency development journey to succeed in culturally different environments. It is a critical part of the Kaleidoscope Mentoring Program as it makes the participants, both mentors and mentees, aware of the need for cultural competency and its importance in achieving their goals.