June 26

Cultural Inbreed in Business

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I have to out myself: I’m a big fan of English football. Not the one we saw during the Euro2012. No, the fast and furious kick and rush full of passion and completely focused on scoring every time a competitor shows a sign of weakness. And regularly British clubs win the Champion League and prove how efficient their way of playing is. But lately England has become the laughing stock of Europe. Again and again they fail to deliver their promises. Why? My guess is their lack of cultural openness: England is the only team in this tournament where none of its players plays in another country. Italy, France even Spain, all have at least four players practicing their skills abroad. Look at Khedira or Ronaldo to understand how they have matured in their foreign clubs.

The same holds true in business. In our global world we cannot remain focused on building a team of cultural homogeneity. When Löscher joined Siemens as new CEO, he declared the company to be too white, too male and too German, and rapidly put in place a diversity program. It has not solved all company’s issues, but it definitely has made Siemens better equipped for a global business world.

In Western and Eastern Europe the younger generation moves now more easily, crossing borders to learn different languages and they have therefore become culturally sensitised and flexible. But their parents and their English speaking neighbours are less prone to cultural open mindedness and therefore the managing board of large European corporation is still too white, too male and too European.


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