The recent media debates on multicultural societies and leveraging diversity stimulated my thinking about metaphors that fit this debate. As a lover of fruits, I thought when do I want and apple versus an orange or fruit salad? Why (or perhaps when) would I choose these individual fruits rather than simply blending them and get all together? In many ways a culture is a blend too – some with a dynamic mix of many recognisable behaviours and values operating in harmony and others a highly “pure and individual strain” that does not like to mix with others.
Societies are the composition of what is welcomed, what is tolerated and what is rejected. Some draw others in to increase the range of compatible flavours and appreciate this new addition without trying to blend them into the amorphous pulp. However, others only allow similar fruits into THEIR mix and quickly adjust the newcomers flavour to suit their environment.
On vacation, we often visit other countries to immerse ourselves in something different and enjoy those differences, BECAUSE they are highlight a new perspective on how others are. More often than not though, we then return to the warm and comfortable “same” feeling that is “home”. But home can be a bit amorphous like completely blended fruit pulp – one overall mixed flavour with bit of many, but representative on none. Is this truly how we want our cultures to be when we can have a fruit salad mix that still has elements of individual identity from many cultures each augmenting the others? The pineapple is still recognisably pineapple AND has influencing hints of orange and kiwi and a dash of passion fruit making it more interesting, tasty and a point of conversation.
Organisations and teams that have a specific consistent cultural norm forced upon them become boring, navel-gazing, prone to group-think and stifle conversations. However, those that genuinely cherish a range of behavioural styles, differences in values and perspectives and actively/respectfully engage these differences to leverage situations are happier and more productive. Drawing upon the variety available to them stimulates emergent conversations, increases creativity and drives innovation and productivity. A “Fruit Salad culture” provides a new unique blend of excitement with each mouthful and keep us interested in participating. An amorphous fruit blend is completely predictable and does not offer the spicy variety many of our most talented colleagues thrive upon.
What kind of culture are you leading or participating in?
Can it be different to what you now and and what impact would this have?
For me it is mostly fruit salad, but in some specific circumstances a single piece may be best, and on very few occasions in a simple context with a known desired outcome, perhaps the blended juice will suffice. Behavioural choices to best leverage the mix need to be sculptured to suit the context. Be the one to choose before someone else makes a choice which is not to your taste!