Cultural Differences Matter, and They Don’t: Transcending Polarized and Polarizing Cultural Stereotypes in Diversity Training

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Author: Iain D. Macpherson, MacEwan University, Canada
Email: macphersoni3@macewan.ca
Published: December 12, 2017
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijbm.2.2.03

Citation: Macpherson, I. D. (2017). Cultural Differences Matter, and They Don’t: Transcending Polarized and Polarizing Cultural Stereotypes in Diversity Training. IAFOR Journal of Business & Management, 2(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijbm.2.2.03


Abstract

Based on reported primary and secondary research, this paper proposes an improvement to the way organizational diversity training (DT) is usually designed and delivered. The focused-upon DT shortcoming is its customary emphasis on instructing trainees about cultural differences in such a way that overstates and oversimplifies those differences, typically contributing to poor outcomes such as lack of change in participant attitudes and behaviour, or even a worsening of them (Kowal, Franklin, & Paradies, 2013).

The proposed improvement is to instead instil in DT trainees a more accurately nuanced intercultural mindset that this author terms non-binary: an appreciation of how the world’s cultures are both distinct and alike, and how even the most basic differences are often underpinned by paradoxical similarities. By way of concrete example, the sub-construct of Japanese interiorized individualism is modelled. The paper concludes by discussing how such non-binary truths, and an accordant behavioural flexibility in cross-cultural interactions, might be fostered in DT trainees through non-traditional pedagogical approaches such as “embodied learning” (Wilson, 2013) and “paradoxical frames” (Miron-Spektor, Gino, and Argote, 2011).

Keywords

diversity training, intercultural theory, individualism/collectivism, non-binary cultural orientation, interiorized individualism, exteriorized individualism