Why Being Multicultural Can Give You Business Edge
We’ve been hearing a lot, to my utter pleasure, about women making forays in this modern business world. Women coming up with brilliant business ideas, women running companies, women sitting on boards of internationally known companies. Women “leaning in”, as Facebook COO and author of the very much (controversially) acclaimed book “Lean In”, and showing to the rest of the world that not only is it possible to almost have it all and still be home for dinner (even if you don’t get to cook it), it should be something that we aspire to, despite our deepest fears and most complex of internal struggles…
And while all of this women empowerment talk is so inspiring and edifying, what I’m not hearing much talk about is how us women of multicultural backgrounds, women whose origins are as diverse as our shoe collections (notice the plural), whose experience encompasses both the traditions of far away continents and the modern theories of the westernized world, how we can combine all that we are, without leaving any of it out, and still be empowered in a manner that does not negate any part of who we are, but manages to leave us whole and oh so much more powerful in our own authentic skins. So how do we garner all this experience, all this rich history, all of these unique individualities and turn them into highly competitive advantages, instead of just fading in the boring, greyish darkness of ordinary, unsuccessful conformity?
- Be Authentic, Be YOU! The best we can offer the world is the true, authentic us. From the way we carry ourselves, to the variety of languages we speak, to the way we use our soft skills and experiences to manage and lead, right down to the very way we wear our hair, we need to reflect who we truly are, with all the human nuances that may go with it. Why not promote the fact that we speak more than 3 or 4 languages, and can help our organizations reach markets they may have never even thought about previously? Why not use powerful cultural negotiation skills and other soft skills to make successful imprints in the world of business negotiation, while teaching the rest of the world about techniques to successfully lead and conduct business? Why not use our heritage to create businesses to add value to the economy as well as people’s lives? Just as we are learning more and more about Eastern cultures and successful ways to apply their cultural techniques to the modern world, so do we need to consider that the modern world also needs to learn of our respective cultures in ways that are empowering, successful, and inspiring, and we may just happen to be the human bridges and channels for it….
- Be willing to learn, so you in turn can teach…One of the biggest obstacles, in my opinion, in reaching out to the world with our multi-cultural skills and contributions, especially as women, is the ability to actually connect to this world. This entails being able to actually participate in actual exchanges of ideas and concepts, through which we can not only learn, but also bring our own contributions to the table. One very wise African man once said to me, “Go and gather knowledge, so one day you can in turn provide knowledge.” We can’t blame others for not knowing more about different ways of living, leading, educating or building businesses, if we fail to take part in these global conversations that create knowledge for everyone. Whether it’s through informing ourselves, furthering our education, getting involved in various business or other types of organizations, one of the only ways that we can share in all we have to offer is to be willing to learn and then give back…
- Think out of the box! If we want to offer something different, a new business idea, a new product, an innovative cost-saving initiative, a new market proposal, using our unique skills, background, and experience, then it’s gotta be what it’s purported to be, that is…different! Out of the box, unique, one-of-a-kind…Part of the power of competitive advantage lies in uniqueness. Been thinking about presenting Cape-Verdean food in a whole new, fusion-like culinary style while still preserving the authenticity of the traditional creole cuisine? Do it in a way that’s never been done before…Pondering over how to combine traditional African cloth and textiles with modern silhouettes? You may need to tread a different path than traditional stylists…Seeing yourself as a life coach and inspiration to others? Why not integrate the wisdom of your cultural heritage in your unconventional teachings?
I strongly believe that tomorrow’s world will be one where our individual contributions, especially as women, global women, will be increasingly valued and cherished. And this may very well be the opportunity for many to reach out to previously unknown and unsuspected groups and communities, to make a difference together on a global scale. And the richer our experience, the richer our contribution, and the bigger the benefit for all…And that is power, unique, authentic, global power…
Are you contributing out of the richness of your experience?