There is no such thing als Cultural Identity….

There is no such thing als Cultural Identity…
…writes French philosopher and sinologist François Jullien in his book of the same title. When I share this thought with others, most of them tend to flinch.
Let’s not forget, these days cultural identity is the talk of the town in sociopolitical debates. And a notion we somehow take for granted to feel comfortable. But it is no need to have studied philosophy to understand, that Jullien has a point. What in the end does identity mean? Conformity of all characteristics. And yes please, over time. A synonym of boredom, logjam, torpor, in the end. Luckily, reality is different, tendering diversity, constant change and transformation – and thus progress, innovation, new horizons. „Everything flows“, as Heraklit put it – sometimes philosophy still turns out to be helpful.
While it is obvious that such thoughts matter on a sociopolitical level – are they of any use in the corporate world? Yes, they are, at least in my opinion. Jullien sees culture as a resource – and businesses are in the best position to understand that resources, just to speak of natural resources, develop into valuables, only once they are extracted, processed and transformed into new materials. A striking description of social change. And something to keep in mind for companies doing business abroad: using culture as a resource, their „own“ as those of their clients, partners and team members. Which bear fruit only once they interact with each other – and help to develop good business. This is about more than knowing protocols, rituals and taboos. It’s about understanding and deploying one’s own culture as a resource as well – and to smartly and thoroughly manage interaction between cultures, initiate change and understand the implications for all people involved. Such competencies should be standard tools for any business traveler.
And for those staying at home: in national teams as well, the concept of diversity falls short if restricted to quota for gender, religions, complexions and sexual preferences. Mixed teams bear fruit only once there is a managed interaction between attitudes, backgrounds and experiences – embracing antagonisms, too. Otherwise you will be stuck with just a colourful mish-mash, useful for self-marketing only.

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