The benefits for organizations embracing cultural diversity are unlimited and range from innovative, creative solutions in business challenges to substantial growth and financial success. In order to capitalize on these benefits, synergy must be achieved. Synergy may seem like an abstract idea, but it has concrete meaning to a Multinational Enterprise (MNE) who adds cultural diversity as a building block for success. A comprehensive definition of synergy describes it as, “a cooperative or combined action, and occurs when diverse or disparate individuals or groups collaborate for a common cause. The objective is to increase effectiveness by sharing perceptions and experiences, insights, and knowledge (Moran, Abramson, & Moran, 2014, p.266). When you examine this definition, it reveals that the heart of synergy requires shared viewpoints, experiences and knowledge which are usually found in teams. Common sense would indicate to any leader whether that leader is an individual or corporation that synergy and cultural diversity go hand in hand.
“Cultural diversity is already an aspect of many
companies; the next step is to recognize it as a valuable
resource and put it to good use.” Festo AG & Co. KG
Retrieved from Cultural Diversity
Synergy By Diversity
Access the study by clicking this link: Bertelsmann-Stiftung
Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German non-profit foundation committed to social change released a study which chronicled the success of twelve different MNE’s whose operations span the globe and reach into multiple cultures. They advocate that, “The diversity of our workforce clearly offers untapped resources for success in the international marketplace” (Stiftung, 2008, p. 6). In each one of the companies profiled, their teams, projects and partnerships were made up a multicultural mix of personnel. The study revealed each company reported synergy effects through diversity in the following three areas:
– Conflict reduction and satisfaction
– Customer focus and market access
– Cooperation and international success
“I believe the key is to create a team environment in
which the potential problems of diversity are minimized
while the potential benefits are unleashed.”
Dr. Taylor Cox Jr
There were myriad methods used by the MNE’s to overcome many of the problems associated with a diverse workforce. One of the primary concerns for a global corporation is assembling good teams and this is where the potential for conflict enters as each team member tends to view the world from their own point of view (PSU, 2015) or what is known as an ethnocentric perspective. One executive profiled in the study was Eva Kaiser-Nolden of Ford, who explained that to overcome conflict between team members there must be an agreement in how they perceive others and how they are viewed by the group (Stiftung, 2008). It is important that the team go through a process of identity negotiation to discover skills and values differences. In most instances, people possess different skills which leads to the generation of new ideas based on their particular expertise and can be described as a positive outcome of conflict (PSU, 2015). On the other hand, differing values often leads to emotional conflict which is detrimental to the team. A team will be successful if each person can identify with their team rather than their individual ethnic group (Stiftung, 2008). Moran et al., (2014) classified team participation as an intense learning experience and indicated synergy happens when team members listen to each other and think of others. It is up to organizations and their leaders to foster an environment where diversity can have a positive result in team success.
Retrieved from Ay Yildiz
Another company highlighted in the study was the German telecommunications company, E-Plus Group which launched the cell phone brand Ay Yildiz in order to market cell phones to the 2.7 million Turks who had immigrated into Germany (Stiftung, 2008). The company did not employ anyone who spoke the language and they were unfamiliar with the culture. They responded by building a team comprised of local Turkish people from the community and redesigned their marketing campaign to target the specific population group. This allowed them to reach Turks not only in Germany, but other parts of the world as well. Ay Yildiz is a perfect example of Perlmutter’s (1969) theory that companies evolve from the ethnocentric, polycentric and geocentric mindset that allows them to achieve global success and local responsiveness simultaneously (as cited in Moran et al., 2014). Building a culturally diverse marketing team allowed them to achieve brand recognition and improve their image in the global marketplace.
Cooperation Builds Success
Deutsche Telekom is a global company who boasts substantial cultural diversity in its heterogeneous workforce of 80000 employees in 50 countries outside the home office in Germany (Stiftung, 2008). As a cultural diversity trendsetter, they recognize the differences within groups and the differences between groups. Their products take into consideration the various age, gender and socio-economic factors of each cultural group while also considering the variations between Turks, Slovakians and South African’s (Stiftung, 2008). Deutsche also accounts for the diversity of their employees and developed “ethnic handbooks” for their personnel which assist them with learning how to respect other cultures. Their strategy is customer oriented, but they have also forged strategic partnerships in each country which ensures their success.
“Globalization challenges us to question our attitudes.
That’s why it’s so exciting!” Prof. Eckard Minx
The common thread with all these companies is they cultivated a global mindset in their approach to success by embracing cultural diversity. Moran et al., (2014) suggested attitudes and ethnocentric views are learned, and it is apparent these companies evolved in both arenas. Global leaders can follow suit by choosing to evolve and broaden their depth by: assembling multi-culturally diverse teams, targeting new ethnic groups in their business strategies and capitalizing on the opportunities created by cultural synergy.
Koppel, P., Sandner, D. (2008). Synergy by diversity: Real life examples of cultural diversity in corporations. Germany: Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Moran, R.T., Abramson, N.R., Moran, S.V. (2014). Managing cultural differences. (9th ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
Pennsylvania State University (2015a). Lesson 6: Cultural synergy. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa15/olead410/001/content/06_lesson/03_page.html
Pennsylvania State University (2015b). Lesson 6: Cultural synergy. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa15/olead410/001/content/06_lesson/03_page.html