How to interpret culture and diversity

Min'enhle Ncube

What anecdotes do we receive about culture and diversity in the media we are exposed to? The representation about culture in the media or in education is a large contributor to the interpretation of culture. But also, the values that one learns about cultural difference becomes crucial in their interpretation of culture.

Culture refers to the central values and norms that a group of people—such as an ethnic group, a nation, a corporation, or some other organization or profession—holds or aspires to hold. Every culture differentiates itself from others by the specific ways it prefers to solve certain problems, such as those that arise from relationships with other people, from the passage of time, and in dealing with the external environment. Groups of people have "typical" cultural traits that can be identified by observing situational behaviours and predominant tendencies in problem solving. Recognizing that a group exhibits a typical cultural trait does not mean that every person in that group has precisely those characteristics. In this case it would be stereotyping. The way in which attitudes are expressed in a business organization and the way employees are evaluated and rewarded are labelled "corporate culture."

Diversity accounts for the similarities, as well as the differences, among and between individuals at all levels of an institution and in society at large. Diversity of thought is critical to reaching the most innovative, customer-focused solutions to the many issues, problems and challenges confronting our business. As such, it is the responsibility of every manager to value and secure diversity of thought in his/her work unit by employing and developing the most talented individuals differing from one another culturally, intellectually and experientially, as well as by race, gender, physical and mental abilities, and other factors.