Latinos easily navigate between heritage country and the U.S. cultural dimensions.
What’s gone wrong with Democracy and How to revive it is the best journalistic essay I have read in a long time, The Economist, March 1st, 2014. Six pages long and with ample multimedia features such as a synthesized historical democracy timeline and video interviews, I read the article a couple of times.
I had to go back and reassess if my first image of parallelisms between democracy and multiculturalism/diversity were even remotely logical. They are.
After exposing the triumphs and losses of democracy especially in the last century, the article points out at China’s view that a controlled environment is more efficient than embedded gerrymandering in the democratic process; at Russians view that a strong economy is more important than a strong democratic ideology; and at recent window-dressing democratic elections that are not based on deep values and supported democratic infrastructure. Yet the biggest forces shaping democracy today are:
1) Globalization and digital revolution
2) Twin forces of globalism and localism
“From above, globalisation has changed national politics profoundly. National politicians have surrendered ever more power, for example over trade and financial flows, to global markets and supranational bodies, and may thus find that they are unable to keep promises they have made to voters…. From below come equally powerful challenges: from would-be breakaway nations, such as the Catalans and the Scots, from Indian states, from American city mayors. The internet makes it easier to organise and agitate; in a world where people can participate in reality-TV votes every week, or support a petition with the click of a mouse…and new entities are quickly forming.” quotes The Economist.
Those same forces are shaping multiculturalism and diversity today. These terms, especially anything with the word multicultural, have different and often divergent meanings for many. The term is a little stale, and yet the definition by the dictionary is not: “Multiculturalism: the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as in a state or nation.” (Random). Similarly, diversity in its most expansive meaning refers to: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization. This commentary discusses the intertwined concepts in the same vein, even though multiculturalism is usually related to multicultural marketing and diversity with talent management, different units in most organizations.
In business, zeroing on marketing strategy, understanding of the customer or client is the foundation. Today’s customer is both a driver and receiver of the digital revolution that empowers him/her connecting around the world at any time, accessing knowledge in many languages as never, relating to the local neighborhood or club events or participating in dialogue across the world. The dual forces of globalism and localism fueled by the digital revolution and markets globalization impact consumers individually and collectively. Democracy protection of rights and aspirations while enabling collective decision-making is another parallel.
The result of these forces is the rise of multiculturalism and diversity in the market and work place. Many are not ready to deal with this reality. Most of the time experiments with multicultural marketing and diversity initiatives have been ‘ethnic’ centric and in the fringes of business strategy or mandated by imperfect affirmative action rules and good intentions.
What to do?
To revive democracy, the article gives the following paraphrased suggestions:
1) Realize the transformational power of technology to make democracy immediate, accessible and increasingly participatory.
2) Harness the powers spectrum: from above and below; from local to global, from individuals to the collective.
3) Build not just the concept but the infrastructure to support it long-term.
4) Combine forces, including with those new groups that transcend typical barriers and borders.
California is an example on how to revitalize democracy in the 21st century. According to Los Angeles Times, California is the first ‘minority’ majority state and it is harvesting benefits of growing immigrant and diverse populations while fueled by a healthy tech industry.
The same prescription applies to investing on building and strengthening diversity and multiculturalism in business today.
1) Realize the transformational power of technology to make diversity and multicultural approaches immediate, accessible and increasingly participatory. Understanding the multiple dimensions of consumers today as an afterthought is myopic. Use newer research techniques to find, analyze and compare how multiple culture influences consumer behaviors and their impact in the decision-making stages. Digital technologies offer plenty of data that needing interpretation through the right lenses. Involve all of your employees and stakeholders into understanding and valuing diversity as an intrinsic asset. Move it to the heart of business strategy.
2) Harness the powers spectrum: from above and below; from local to global, from individuals to the collective. ‘ Either or’ decisions are often lazy, default positions that failed to deeply understand and leverage opportunities and challenges among a) local, national and global markets; b) individual differences and cultural traits; and c) underrepresented groups perspectives and know-how. Build the future by fortifying current and uncovered assets that may have not been obvious in the past. These include building strong community long-term relationships and partnering with global social programs from rich to poor and from emerging markets abroad and in our backyard.
3) Build not just the concept but the infrastructure to support it long-term. How many diversity initiatives and multicultural programs have littered corporate lawns? Probably too many to count. A concept or good intention is not enough. Solid investment and commitment as a result of a disciplined and consistent approach will bring financial benefits based on realistic short and long-term goals. More importantly, without this foundation, the future of companies or organizations may not exist. The world, the nation, the neighborhood, the employee, the consumer is changing from within and from outside forces such as the two discussed. Ask, what percentage of your investment is going to these areas? The roughly 3.5% perfunctory allocation per latest Nielsen Multicultural Report, The Power of the Multicultural Consumer?
4) Combine forces, including with new groups that transcend typical barriers and borders. Peel the onion for understanding, build layers for action. Democracy is complex. Multicultural and diversity is complex. Take an easy-to-adopt and follow approach. Combine deep understanding across groups and within groups for understanding differences and similarities. Then build a modular, multi-panel strategy and supporting infrastructure that layers levels of support by group, by type, by influence or location. Learn how to thrive in a multi-dimensional world in a microcosm and then scale up and across.
True multicultural and diversity values focus both on the individual cultural dimensions as well as the collective target market or organization characteristics. One cannot be separate from the other. Relegating diversity and multicultural marketing to singled-out groups alone is bound to weaken its powerful impact.
Democracy and multiculturalism are parallel in that as powerful concepts seek to harvest the power of united forces while respecting and valuing individual differences. The essay concludes: “Democracy was the great victor of the ideological clashes of the 20th century. But if democracy is to stay as successful in the 21st century as it was in the 20th, it must be both assiduously nurtured when it is young—and carefully maintained when it is mature.”
Equally, innovative diversity and multicultural strategies, poised great victors in business in the 21st century, need assiduous nurturing when young and careful maintenance when mature.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!