Diversity and strong cultures: never the twain shall meet?

It’s rare to find any sizeable company that doesn’t have something to say on the subject of diversity.

However, many of those same organisations are also wont to wax lyrical about their “unique culture” and the “Company X Way” of doing business.

Reflecting on my earlier post on the language of diversity, it struck me that a genuine commitment to diversity and a strong corporate culture ought to be mutually exclusive.

After all, a genuine commitment to diversity is characterised by the phrase, “come in, and now we are a new group.” If we truly respect and value difference, then the group dynamic is redefined by each new member.

Strong cultures, on the other hand, suggest good, old fashioned brandwashing: “come in, and we’ll show you how to be just like the rest of us.”

Intriguing insight or pointless postulation? You decide!


2 thoughts on “Diversity and strong cultures: never the twain shall meet?

  1. kevinkeohane

    Hey Dan. Great posts on Interface/Ray Anderson by the way.

    I’m currently designing the employee engagement in company values for the Publicis UK merger. My first principle (which was signed off with enthusiasm!) was that all those values we as a leadership team created are a starting point; we agreed they reflected our shared culture, but it’s up to those in the culture, and those joining the culture, to define and shape and influence how they are lived and articulated.

    So step one is – here are the values defined by The Leaders … what do they mean to you? what are examples of them at work? How do YOU define them?

    Next step is for team leaders to talk about the values in the context of their day to day jobs.

    Only then can we “communicate” the values, because only then will we’ll really know what they mean to us.

    No cobbler’s children here!


  2. Dan Gray

    Cheers, Kevin.

    Particularly where values are concerned, I think the key lies in ensuring they act as a loose guide, rather than a prescription, so that sounds like a really smart approach.

    We’ve often talked about Vodafone’s core values of, “red, rock solid and restless,” and they’re a great example of the point.

    Whilst they provide a common focal point that everyone can relate to, they stop well short of dictating any kind of “normative” behaviours.

    By being “artfully vague” they simultaneously allow the culture to evolve and the expression of that culture to remain relatively consistent – and that’s a really neat trick.



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