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3 Steps to Being More Culturally Responsive (and why it matters to your organization)

In a world where consumers expect on-demand, custom, seamless experiences, having your finger on the pulse of both the internal and external culture is core to providing this experience.

Being culturally responsive means your organization can identify, leverage, and respond to internal and external cultural influences, to maximize value. When you’re culturally responsive, your external focus allows you to understand better the nuances in the marketplace, as well as the very subtle shifts in consumer attitudes, preferences, and purchasing patterns. Also, your internal focus allows you to better understand the attitudes, preferences, and patterns of the individuals within your organization.

To better understand why it’s crucial for your organization to be culturally responsive, it helps to look at the potential impacts and pain points of not being culturally responsive. Here are three traits associated with non-cultural responsiveness:

  1. Ineffective Communication – If you aren’t paying attention to and making decisions based on your internal and external audience, you likely are experiencing ineffective communication. This leads to diminished levels of trust and commitment, reduced employee engagement (with increased employee turnover), and an emotional disconnection among users.
  2. Risk Normalization – When an organization is not culturally responsive, they run the risk of becoming socially homogeneous. Previously productive and valuable information channels become more formal, and carry less meaning. Also, innovation carries a lessening impact, as markets slowly become underserved, and the enterprise as a whole becomes increasingly resistant to change.
  3. Conflicting/Confounded Objectives – A once vibrant cultural fabric comprised of positive tensions quickly loses it luster when an organization is not culturally responsive. The more alike the organization is, the less aligned and less attentive it will become. Departments fight for limited funding to support objectives that are not systematically aligned, and leaders spend precious energy seeking organizational balance rather than organizational inertia.

So how then, does an organization work towards being more culturally responsive?

Organizations that embraced a culturally responsive mindset have all mastered the alignment of three different levels of strengths, enabling cultural responsiveness to be realized.

  1. People Level – This level is the articulation of individual and personal values. These values become the base from which a person interacts with and responds to variables within the organization. At the people level, communication and feedback are prevalent, with a foundation of trust and candor. Ideas are evaluated based on merits of possibility and impact; relationships are fostered to develop individuals, and growth opportunities are readily available and actively embraced.
  2. Practice Level – This is the heart and soul of where culture resides within an organization, influenced by the processes deployed by leadership, and then manifested through the team. At the practice level, teams are equally empowered and responsible for business outcomes, while leadership is facilitative, innovative, and willing to accept some degree of risk. On the whole, the organization is flexible, values teamwork, and encourages positive social interaction.
  3. Purpose Level – The purpose level is the value an organization desires to create, providing individuals and practices direction on the direction in which the organization is headed. At this level, the organization has clearly defined values, and visions of possibility create strategic advantages. The customer interest drives the mission, which then drives organizational architecture. Outcomes then feed directly back into the developing organization.

By aligning these three levels of strengths, your organization will be well on your way to a journey of continuous improvement, one that is both beneficial and sustainable for employees and consumers alike. Cultural responsiveness is at the heart of this improvement — a fundamental attribute that supports the growth and development of a successful digital organization.

Adopting a culturally responsive mindset is one of a set of eight mindsets that, when combined, create what we believe is an organization operating in its ideal digital state. These mindsets (Value-Driven, Innovation, Experience, Lean-Agile, Culturally Responsive, Data-Driven, Continuous Delivery, and Operational Experience) are the foundation of the Digital Continuum. The Digital Continuum is our revolutionary answer to bring companies into the digital world and ultimately drive significant business value.