Machine and Process Management

Company values, diversity and progress – some learnings from Claude Levi-Strauss!

Reading so much about the importance of diversity as a condition for company success, I decided to come back to one of the main thinkers on this topic – Claude Lévi Strauss – and read again “Race et Histoire” (published 1954 – Unesco).

In the chapters nine and ten, he investigates what are the conditions that enable a sudden acceleration in the progress of “civilization”. By looking at two historical moments of progress acceleration (Neolithic revolution & industrial revolution) he demonstrates that the key enabler for progress is the intense interactions of many different cultures with many differences between them. The higher those two, the stronger are the chances of a strong acceleration of progress, and according to him, this is what happened. Claude Levi Strauss calls it “the coalition of cultures” and this is the diversity of the members of this coalition that triggers acceleration of progress.

That looks very similar to me to the need of diversity for our teams to enable progress (not only gender and geography, but also culture, knowledge, way of thinking, etc …) and it supports from a theoretical and conceptual point of view the current efforts to grow diversity. Definitively, diversity is a key for success and each of us have had the opportunity to notice the benefit of diverse teams.

Claude Levi Strauss also raises the paradox that by interacting together those cultures may progressively lower their differences which would result in slowing down progress and the need to continuously bring new diversity to keep the initial pace of progress.

So I wonder, from this conceptual point of view if the usual efforts to drive “one company culture” or “shared company values” is not accelerating this risk of slowing down the progress. And in order to maintain strong capacity to progress, if companies should not emphasize less those concepts and avoid advocating for a “common culture” or “shared values”.

Any thoughts on all of above and does any one know any article or study that would have the same level of quality for conditions for “revolutionary progress” in companies as what Claude  Levi Strauss did for civilizations ?


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