Multicultural Awareness

Quote of the week:

Character is higher than intellect . . .

                  A great soul will be strong to live,

                                    as well as to think.

                                                              —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The goal of this week’s learning is to discuss multicultural awareness and why this concept is important to today’s business environment, in particular as globalization expands.  How do organizations know what they’re doing works?  How do you know you’re getting your money’s worth or in business speak—a good return on investment (ROI)?  In addition, we will also delve deeper into various meta-analyses of leadership, organizational structure, and organizational culture.  How will using this technique be of interest and benefit to us?

To begin our adventure, let’s take a walk back in of time.  As Landy and Conte (2007) offered:

You may ask why we need any historical treatment.  The answer is that to know where we are now and where we are going as a field [I-O Psychology], it helps to know how we got there. (p. 17)

The goal for us during this course is to connect the dots that transcend a variety of related disciplines from leadership to management, to human resources, to human engineering, to the analysis of the human psyche.  When we take ourselves to work each day—however we may define work— we cross many fields of interest as we simply do not exist within a vacuum.  Since many of us spend at least 50% of our time at ‘this thing called work,’ let’s see how the tenets of I-O Psychology—“the application of psychological principles, theories, and research to the work setting” (Landy & Conte, 2007, p. 8) affects both our work and non work behavior—the human factor.

Let’s take a look at this quick video.  John Maxwell—The Secret to Success (You Tube, 2010).  [If this hyperlink will not work, please simply cut and paste this link into your browser:].

What do we think about why we are here and this definition of success by John Maxwell?  Now let’s extend this to an organization and how success is defined here.  What do we think about this definition as compared with what our friends Landy and Conte (2007) offer from our text?  Other outside research perhaps [to include the articles listed in our syllabus for this week]?  What is your personal definition of both?  How do we differentiate between the organization as an entity, and an organization that reflects the people that the organization serves?  Again I ask, how do we know that ‘it’ works?  That ‘it’ works effectively?  Successfully?  Why is this so subjective?  Please consider including your reflections within your DQs in class for us to ponder further. *smiles*

Soon-to-be-famous Segment: News You Can Use.

Now let’s look at the application of what we have learned this week.  How does this translate into action?  How can this translate into “News We Can Use Today?”

Let’s review our critical thinking skills from our graduate days to connect the dots.  If thinking is within the box and critical thinking is outside the box; let me offer a new concept: refractive thinking which is beyond the box, beyond traditional conceptual boundaries particularly of the either / or dichotomy of the proverbial box (Lentz, 2009, Preface).  Why is this important here?  This theory builds upon the desire to move beyond conventional wisdom, to learn to challenge what you see, and most importantly to explain why.  What is my role as your faculty then you may ask? [Brilliant question to ask—thank you! *grins*]  My role is to help you see what is already there, expanding beyond your comfort zone and perceived limitations, to move from a definition of I-O Psychology—what people and organizations do (theory) into application (action)—how they do what they do, and perhaps a wee bit into why as well. *grins*  What we need to consider is the difference between what an organization is and the tangible results of what we see—its affects and effects? [Hint: spend some time deciding what the difference is between these two words.]  What is meant by these two different words and why might I be highlighting their importance here?

Our goal is to integrate the theories of I-O Psychology to “translat[e] new knowledge, insights, skills, and values into one’s conduct” (Robinson, 1994, p. 3).  We need to move from theory to actual practice.  What will you do with this information?  How will your internal thinking translate into the benefits you’ll gain from knowing why work exists and the personnel approach where “the goal is to find or fit the best person to the job” (Landy & Conte, 2007, p. 11). Is this as simple as the old adage that form follows function?  What value beyond relationships to a particular job or organization do we seek?  Are we simply brokering a deal to satisfying a need?  How is this valuable?  Let’s be sure to contemplate these ideas as we look toward our discussion questions for this week.

Let’s now look at the goal of I-O Psychology—“to be able to act as a resource in helping [others] understand the polices [at work] that are affecting them” (Landy & Content, 2007, p. 13).  This course will also focus on aspects of diversity both with regard to demographic factors and thought, employment discrimination, issues of stress and safety, reintegrating those without jobs into the work force, the imaginary line between work and our non work lives, and the idea of ethnocentrism and parochialism with regard to foreign based companies with particular attention paid to culture and work-related solutions.  What an adventure!  How will we begin to fit these pieces together? 

One of my favorite leadership theories is the Kouzes and Posner (1997) Jigsaw Puzzle Principle.

It is easier to put the puzzle together if you can see what is on the box cover.

In any organization, people have different pieces of the organizational puzzle.  Members may have detailed descriptions of their roles and responsibilities, but very often they lack information about the ‘big picture’—about the overall purpose or vision of the organization. (pp. 98-99)

Do you know what the cover of the puzzle box looks like for you, your colleagues, your coworkers, and your organization?  This is the overarching purpose for us here for I-O Psychology—the formalized study of how these various puzzle pieces of the human factor integrate and work together, both on the individual level and for the organization.  This then of course begs the questions: What forces act upon these pieces?  What are the dynamics that are in play that ultimately effect (and affect!) the outcome in which these organizations operate?  Where do you fit in?  Why?

This of course then further postulates, how can we in this class help you increase your understanding of these concepts?  How can we increase the tools available to help you as part of these organizations—wherever you may find yourself—with the purpose of combining these pieces together for more effective and functional outcomes?

I like to use the concept of outcome based thinking—starting with the end in mind—where you want to be, then backing the truck all the way up to find the most effective route to get there.  Think of the answer of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do” (Alice in Wonderland, 1954).   Very profound isn’t it, yet so elegantly simple.  This is what is meant by the various disciplines this course invites us to explore—how can you as the manager or leader control and manage aspects of social capital and culture in all its complexity and divergent splendor to achieve effective and desired results.  Let’s look at both the end result and the process by which to navigate often turbulent and troubled waters to get there. *smiles*

We must look to not only the what of the equation, but the other side of the equal sign –the end result as well. 

What  + How = Organizational & Personnel Action [effect + affect]

AND let’s look to the process [the internal and external approaches to get there (Jones, 2010, pp. 15-16)].  Again, we continue to ask the question, how do we know when we get ‘it’ right?  How do we know when good is good enough?  Do we settle or do we go for exceptional?  How do we know that the puzzle pieces match the top of the box cover in the most efficient and effective way possible?  How do we know when we have arrived at our destination (outcome) and that where we are is where we want to be, need to be, should be?

Lastly, let’s consider the outcomes of critical thinking and query once more: How do we define success?  Connors, Smith, and Hickman (2004) suggest looking at the accountability of results to identify who is responsible.  “Your organization will not succeed in the long run unless people assume accountability for achieving the desired results” (p. 7).  Isn’t it amazing to see how success ultimately begins with the process of critical thinking and the accountability for the outcome of those behaviors?  How do we truly know that these choices are truly in the best interests of all concerned—all cultural stakeholders?  How does this idea of industrial efficiency and individual differences help us here?  Why is relevancy of interest to us?  Who decides whose goals are of the most importance?  What if there is a conflict, who decides who wins? 

Great points for us to ponder this week.  Let’s tug on these strings a wee bit more as we move into our discussions and see where this takes us.

Enjoy your week and happy thinking!

Dr. C


Connors, R., Smith, T., & Hickman, C. (2004). The Oz Principle: Getting results through individual and organizational accountability. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

Jones, G. R. (2010). Organizational theory, design, and change (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1987). The leadership challenge: How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Landy, F. J., & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Lentz, C. (2009). The refractive thinker®: An anthology of doctoral writers. Las Vegas, NV: The Lentz Leadership Institute.

Robinson, R. D. (1994). Helping adults learn and change. (Rev. ed.). West Bend; WI: Omnibook Co.

You Tube. [Producer]. (2010). John Maxwell: The secrets of success. [Video]. Available from

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June 6th, 2011 by admin

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