Multi-culturalism is the key to being competitive

As I write this article my head is still throbbing with the images of the bloody, barbaric events in Paris, so discussing multi-culturalism at this time might be considered by some as sheer madness. Although violence and oppression appear in almost every culture, collectively, we must draw a clear line between the atrocities of a few fanatics, and the nations, religions, cultures or societies in whose name they perpetuate their criminal activity.

The business world today is irrevocably internationalised, and there’s no going back. More than ever, company activities are, or ought to be, managed from a global perspective whether or not we are physically present in a multi-domestic conglomerate. In order to increase competitiveness, companies must be efficient when acquiring and sharing knowledge, while innovating processes and business models, and be better equipped to both identify client needs and adapt to demanding markets. In essence, no matter where they operate, companies need to assess and factor in a combination of attributes enabling the integration of the idiosyncrasies and cultural differences of the people within the organisation.

If we look around us, we see that despite the growing presence of Basque companies in international markets, very few have included individuals from other countries on their management team, thus limiting the potential of greater wealth being brought to the business. We must consider that the internationalisation process is heavily centred not only on the parent company management models and mechanisms of interrelating, but in terms of cultural traits and values as well. Unfortunately, however, what we frequently see is that one’s own values are considered to be true and immutable. This creates barriers and obstacles to the full integration of the people involved in the business, whereas another approach would be to incorporate a diversity of world visions, thereby boosting the competitive potential of people.

Wouldn’t it be enriching for companies to respect the identity of the business project? Wouldn’t companies become stronger with contributions from other cultures and markets? The capacity to hold a multi-cultural dialogue is a key to both future competitiveness and to boosting the business project, and yet it is a competence that remains seriously underdeveloped. Identity is both history and present. Above all though, it’s a sense of aspiration for the future, where we must continue to shape the community which is made up of people from differing cultures and places; people who work to make the project grow.

We need to aim for an ideal where society accepts multi-culturalism naturally. By encouraging co-operative effort between the education system, government, companies, and the media, it will ultimately be possible to build a country that is open to constructive dialogue on the world stage. As the poet aptly put it: "By loving those who are different, we grow as human-beings."

Read the original article published in Eleconomista.es (Spanish)

Sabin Azua

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