Creating a Culture of Cultures: How Encouraging a Polyculture Allows a Company to Thrive

More and more companies are seeing their cultures as a differentiator.  What attributes, behaviors and values you espouse help determine the talent you recruit and retain, as well as your customer experience and growth. Today everything is agile; everyone is moving fast. An alchemy of technology, people, culture and operations is manifesting a completely different way of working. We may also need a different way of thinking. Over the years, companies have spent billions to identify and instill a corporate culture they believe will help them be as productive as possible and set themselves apart from their competitors. The goal: one consistent culture, one way of thinking. A single-culture environment can be very efficient. If we all think the same, all perform the same way, it is easy to work together. Some of today’s top companies are organized this way.

I have always taken a different approach

What would happen if we encourage – and actually strive for – a polyculture, an environment in which many different people with diverse ideas, customs and experiences thrive? Instead of looking for people who will “fit in,” we would look for people who stand out. We would value the attributes of aptitude, experience, ingenuity and creativity when evaluating candidates for hire or promotion over their ability to parrot the company line.

This has worked over the course of my own career.

I was lucky enough to join a company right out of college that had adopted this approach from its founding. It became how we built our business. We were attracted to smart people who were different than we were. We believed the market overvalued experience compared to aptitude and an innovative spirit. We believed that our employees’ ability to thrive in their place of work was as integral to our business success as our clients’ experience.

Over time, our approach became so ingrained into the company that it wasn’t even a conscious decision. As we grew and began to do business with people around the world, our polyculture allowed us to navigate different social cultures. When looking for areas around the world to expand into, we selected to site offices in countries that also valued the characteristics we prized.

How does one establish and encourage this type of polyculturalism if it is not instilled at the company’s founding?

Reward those who step outside the norm. Different viewpoints result in different approaches. Set a tone from the top that you value those who try new things, contribute new ideas. It’s common to celebrate successes. Don’t forget to also celebrate initiative and imagination.

Let people know they are empowered, then follow that up with action. We’re the first generation to truly have the world at our fingertips. We can reach out to experts anywhere. Encourage your team members to find and consult the best. Different ideas and different approaches will surface. They then will bring their broader perspectives back to your projects and your client work.

Develop an empathetic leadership style. If I say we are going from point A to point B in a monoculture, we all start walking in that direction. In a polyculture, someone may ask, “Why are we going to point B? Why not C?” Consensus takes more time; it takes more discussion. Sometimes B will end up being the proper route. But sometimes this willingness to consider alternative ideas can lead to startling successes.

Look for the artisans.  When we first established a presence in Poland, I found myself falling back into the habit of focusing on the size of our projects, the number of users. Our leader in Poland stepped in. “These are artisans, craftsmen,” he said. “They want to take pride in what they create.” He was right. By readjusting my perspective, we were able to achieve the success I sought while preserving the flexibility and creativity that set us apart from our competitors.


Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Alliance Data Systems CEO Edward J. Heffernan
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Alliance Data Systems CEO Edward J. Heffernan
How Dirk Nowitski Achieved a Net Worth of $120 Million
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Mark Walter
CEO Wendy Kopp
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Wendy Kopp
Discover it card
The 10 Best Credit Cards for Students in 2019
Omega Healthcare Investors
Why Omega Healthcare Investors is a Solid Dividend Stock
World of Hyatt Credit Card
10 Benefits of Having The World of Hyatt Credit Card
PPL Corporation
Why PPL Corporation is a Solid Long-Term Dividend Stock
Seamless Virtual AI Assistant
How Close Are We to Seamless Talking AI Assistants?
Wearable ECG
How Will Wearable ECGs Affect Our Future?
Computer Vision
What is Computer Vision and How Does it Impact the Future
Pervasive Computing
What is Pervasive Computing and How Does it Factor Into Our Future
Boston Chops Steakhouse
Why Boston Chops is One of Boston’s Finest Steakhouses
10 Reasons to Stay at The Dominick in NYC
Grill 23 Boston
Why Grill 23 is One of Boston’s Finest Steakhouses
Intercontinental Times Square
10 Reasons You Should Stay at the Intercontinental in Times Square
2000 Ferrari Rossa by Pininfarina
A Closer Look at The 2000 Ferrari Rossa by Pininfarina
1956 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
A Closer Look at The 1956 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
1967 Ferrari 330 P4 Berlinetta
A Closer Look at The 1967 Ferrari 330 P4 Berlinetta
1968 Ferrari Dino 246
A Closer Look at the 1968 Ferrari Dino 246
What to Watch For: A Collector’s Interview
A Closer Look at the Breitling Bentley Flying B No. 3
2019 Breitling
Benefits of Authorized: Avoiding the Grey Market
Breitling Emergency II Titanium
A Closer Look at the Breitling Emergency II Titanium