redrawing cultural road maps

In order to reimagine diversity and inclusion and be effective in our efforts, we need to redraw our cultural road maps. Remember those things called road maps? Drivers used to consult them to plan out the best routes and map directions to particular locations. Cultural road maps help shape the routes we take and the directions we move in our cross cultural interactions. I recall on really long family trips as AAA members our family would take advantage of their membership feature called TripTiks. These handy maps would assure us that we would get the latest maps with up to date information on road closings and construction that we might have to contend with on the trip.  Many a family vacation started with a visit to a AAA office to get our detailed maps to route our family to our desired location. Does your cultural road map lead you to your desired location?

AAA no longer offers TripTiks, with the advent of dedicated GPS devices and GPS mapping apps on smartphones and tablets those days are now gone. In fact smart phone apps with their constantly updating mapping features, are quickly making dedicated GPS devices, which have to be manually updated, obsolete. One of the things I like about the latest generation of GPS mapping apps is it no longer tells me its rerouting. If I make a change in the previously prescribed route, it adapts and gives me a new route. How convienient and much less annoying! Can your cultural maps do that? Are you still using old cultural maps or dedicated GPS devices that may be out of date in your diversity and inclusion efforts? Is there an app for that?

In our increasing diversity social landscape our culutral maps are constantly in need of updates. Turns out GPS apps need updating as well. They are only as good as the information fed into them. Bad or insufficient information in bad or insufficeint information out. The tech world was a buzz when Apple launched its replacement for Google maps on iDevices. Until, that is, the app started sending people to airport runways looking for Airfield Road among several other directional miscues. During a trip to the Carribean I used Apple maps app to drive from one end of the island to the next. The maps for that island however had not been recently updated and I drove straight into a closed highway. Our cultural maps can be less than effective as well if they are not updated with accurate information as well. What if our cultural map or GPS is based on inaccurate or limited knowledge? We might end up somewhere other than our desired location.  Someplace that could be disastrous for our business or organization. What have you done to update your cultural maps?

Early cartographers originally drew maps of the world as flat. Early astronomers drew maps of the solar system with the earth at the center rather than the sun at the. When Columbus sailed for the new world he assumed he was sailing towards India,  as a result much of the islands in the Americas are called the West Indies and the native people Indians. These persepctives turned out to be very inaccurate. The maps of the world and our solar system needed to be redrawn based on the latest information. Sometimes our cultural perspective causes us to make less than effective decisions becuase we only have limited perspective or information. Is it time to redraw your cultural map or update your data about diversity with the latest research and information? 

There is a human tendency to see our cultural worldview at the center of the universe and that perspective often causes us to inaccurately see the world as flat. We human beings perceive the cultural lens through which we view the world as the “normal” view. This leads us to make certain assumptions in our interactions with others that like the assumptions above are inaccurate. In today’s global marketplace and diverse society we need to learn how to redraw and update our cultural maps. You and I cannot afford to assume that our cultural perspective is normative for everyone we encounter. If we want to be effective and successful in cross cultural interactions we must update our infomation about different cultures and redraw our cultural maps to reroute and adapt to a variety of cultural contexts. What “normative cultural assumptions might you be making in your business organization or institution?

Re-imagining diversity and inclusion and becoming culturally intelligent in our work, help to redraw our cultural road maps . I beleive that this can lead to outcomes where the culture (race, ethnicity, gender etc.) of our customers, constituents and clients is not a driving factor in our outcome. So are you reDI? reDI to redraw and update your cultural maps? Let us know, we want to help.

4 thoughts on “redrawing cultural road maps

  1. This article has a lot of truth to it. But your last two statements are the bottom line. Are you ready and are you willing? Just because an individual does not want to be racially exclusive. A nice way of saying racially bias, or racist doesn’t mean that they are not racially bias or racist. There must be a willingness to face the fact that we can have cultural assumptions that may be inaccurate.

    • reimagine diversity

      I do believe you are correct on readiness being an essential component in the process. How do you suggest we can help organizations and individuals build that readiness?

      • I believe that on this side of the equation it would be impossible for anyone or any organization help another organization or individual get to that point of readiness. What we need to do is a better job of is correctly evaluating the readiness for change in the organization or individual. Example: The Grand Haven School System has indicated that they are ready for change. Yet after decades of racially charged incidents, and suggestions from community and LEDA, a small percentage of staff has had diversity/equity training and to my knowledge there is only one or two persons of color on a staff of over 300. Saying you are ready does not mean you are ready. Therefore time, effort and resources have done little to change the school system’s cultural map to even reflect the growing population of children of color within the community.

        What I would first ask an organization or individual is what are you willing to do to accurately reflect the current world view. If they are unwilling to literally put their money were their mouth is, I would not waste my time. Although diversity is not a new issue, it is a complex one which can requires major changes in the way organizations and individuals conduct business.

        Let’s do a better job at determining the readiness of an organization before undertaking the assignment!

        • reimagine diversity

          Thanks for the comment another piece of the puzzle may be that the tools that they are being offered to build readiness just don’t work. Some organizations are stuck in models and approaches of addressing diversity that no longer work. This is what long time practitioners like Howard Ross is saying. As they continue to push these ineffective and outdated approaches these organizations may actually help perpetuate the problem. So the support offered to those they serve is not effective and create the frustration I heard in your comment. I have a post coming on this soon please read and offer your thoughts when it goes online.

          That is why after much research and conversation with diversity professionals and those we serve we at the reDI project have decided we needed to re-imagine diversity. We can’t just revise or rethink it we have design a different approach. Only then can we begin to address the lingering problem of cultural, racial and ethnic barriers to diversity and a culturally neutral society.

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