We need diversity of thought
”We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.”
– Tim Berners-Lee
It’s simple. It’s 2015 and the ‘wake up’ call is long gone. Any company that hasn’t established a clear pathway to cultural diversity is behind the curve. I would ask them, ‘What are you waiting for?’
Our World is connected on many levels now, which is great but this means great challenges for us as individuals and businesses alike. Think about the word perspective, in the context of business it means a certain way of looking at the World, our markets and our individual customers. It could be said that with the right perspective profit follows. But where does perspective come from? And if you discover your perspective is too narrow, how do you broaden it?
The answer is simple, but impossible without real change. I’m talking about the willingness to change, both yourself and your company. And no, not just some casual, platonic effort, but instead a real deep and lasting change in the way you are doing things. Since it will not have the effect you are expecting without true commitment.
There are shortcuts to both new perspective and real change, simply put, people! Easy wasn’t it? Just add cultural diversity into the mix and like magic everything will fall into place, right? Well, not so fast. You see this has been tried over and over again for decades. Diversity is not a new concept in many countries, even though we may not fully understand it yet here in Finland. The basic principle that adding people of varied ethnicity and backgrounds to our companies equates to instant positive results is a myth. There are challenges of course and for successful diversity to happen we need to be well prepared.
I am an Australian living in Finland, and this means my perspective is by default different (sometimes radically) to that of most Finns. On top of that, the company I own with my Finnish wife Sari, Tekmil, is squarely placed in the business of helping Finnish companies and International companies based here, to become better with languages and culture. We help ease companies through the process required for lasting cultural and communication harmony.
Markets are changing too obviously, and not only those beyond our borders. Domestic markets have changed and will continue to. So any company that hasn’t embraced cultural diversity yet, or those companies that are not diversified and haven’t planned to do it, are going to soon find it increasingly difficult to compete. So where do you start, what should you focus on first?
I think the key is to start with yourself and your company. Ask yourself if the commitment exists from the very top of the organization to the very bottom of it. A simple set of questions in an anonymous survey to everyone in the company might help. It could go like this:
- Do you think our company should employ more foreigners?
- If yes, then where do you see a new foreign employee best positioned?
- If no, please explain what concerns you about this or why you think it is a bad idea.
- What do you see as our greatest future challenges?
Not a huge list of questions, but important ones all the same. Because it will give you critical insight about the pulse of your organization. And once you have discovered the general feeling of your current employees you will be able to create a strategy towards real change. The important note here is that in order for this change to occur you will absolutely need ‘buy in’ to the strategy. Don’t think this means 100% across the board acceptance either. That is actually not necessary. It is more important to gain acceptance from key individuals, ones that you know have influence and respect from their colleagues. For it will be those people that drive the change you are looking for.
Your overall strategy might require outside help both in design phases and during the implementation. My company plays this type of role for many of our clients for example. So no need to carry the burden of this alone, in fact it is better to bring in outside help. As often you will see that ‘outsiders’ bring in fresh perspectives, and isn’t that the entire point?
The bottom line is this. Once you have done it, and have begun the search for new perspectives from culturally diverse people, your company will begin a new era of productivity and success. You have far more to gain by bringing in foreigners than can be lost. Always remember they will look at your operations from totally new angles, they possess networks beyond Finland’s borders and they apply their expertise in innovative and varied ways.
Zoran Kanti-Paul is an Australian who has lived in Finland since 2000. He has had a diverse working career in Australia, both in industrial areas such as GM Holdens Australia, and also entrepreneurial activities, founding one of Australia’s first Web related IT companies in the early 90’s.
When he first came to Finland, Zoran worked for 4 years as a full time lecturer in IT at Tampere Polytechnic, within the English BBA program.
He and his wife Sari Kanti-Paul founded TekMiL Oy in 2005, which has grown to be one of Finland’s largest national providers of Language and Culture training services. They employ over 130 trainers throughout Finland, from 18 different Nationalities, and are training their clients in 17 different languages.
TekMiL Oy provides services to both large and SME sized companies in Finland. Clients include Patria, Alma, Cargotec, Kone, Saarioinen, Storaenso and Handelsbanken, to name only a few.
The goal of TekMil is simple, “Understand – Persuade – Bring Change”