Branches + Roots: 3 Habits of Culturally Intelligent Companies

By Julian S. Newman

Recently, Forbes Magazine published an issue themed “The Most Innovative Leaders in Business” where of 100 leaders, only one was a woman.

Forbes is just the latest member in cultural fau peaux club.

What about the commercial romanticizing slavery?

Or the Dove commercial where an African American woman uses soap and then becomes a Caucasian woman?

The black child in the “monkey hoodie” or the black face jumper?

And Nivea’s ad about purity?

While Forbes published an editorial apology like the others, it speaks to a larger issue that faces many companies:

Most companies just aren’t built for this.

While it’s easy to become frustrated with the latest marketplace gaffe, it is much more important to address the problem’s process, rather than simply the problem’s product.

Said another way, we must enlarge our focus from primarily viewing branches to carefully examining roots.

If a tree has bad fruit, we can remove fruit and branches.

If our tree has a root problem the bad produce will return.

Bad produce is the symptom, bad roots are the problem.

Good intentions about branches isn’t enough. It’s time to act and change at the root level.

3 Habits of Cultural Intelligent Companies:

  1. Empowered People: When we have a diverse collection of people at the decision making table, we are not able to only avoid problems, but we can also find meaningful solutions.

  2. Examined Processes: When we create organizational processes that include potential high performers that don’t fit into a “traditional mold”, we allow our organization to grow stronger and more dynamic.

  3. Expanded Perspective: When we understand that while diverse representation is good, diverse perspective is best. Creating room for status quo to be challenged, sacred cows to be removed, and authentic humanity to be expressed can be transformative.

While these simple steps take great vision and commitment, Culturally Intelligent organizations realize that when the roots get right, the branches are much easier to manage.

A strategy of both root AND branches are essential to creating an environment where every leader can achieve the highest level of their human potential.

Julian Newman