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Cultural Collaboration Is a Formula for Success

Feb. 13, 2017
The United States is an immigrant nation, and its melting pot of cultures is a continuing source of entrepreneurial drive.

New solutions, ideas and creativity need fertile ground to grow. The ground, or in this case the business sector, must contain a cross-section of ideas. Different ideas come from employees and managers who have different perspectives, with culture being one of the most important perspectives.

A perfect example of this is in the manufacturing world which became completely transformed with the introduction of the Toyota Production System (which we know as lean manufacturing). The idea which the U.S. adapted from Japan gave businesses a new way of looking at solving problems. Over time the U.S. companies adapted this idea into their own production systems and now point to this continuous improvement philosophy as a strong contributor to their success.

In addition to adopting ideas from other cultures, companies are also making sure they have personnel from a variety of cultures. And this inclusion pays off. Between 2008 and 2010, companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers, according to a McKinsey & Company study.

Interestingly, businesses receive further benefit when employees spend time in different cultures. Research done by Adam Galinsky, of Columbia Business School, reveals that people who have spent time adapting to more than one culture are better able to generate new ideas in corporate settings.

Geographic trends in the U.S. are going to help provide diversity to the business sector. According to U.S. Census data, by 2050 new immigrants and their children will account for 83% of the growth in the working-age population.

And with that population we expect to see continuation of another trend. More than half of the current U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more were started by immigrants. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, these 44 companies are collectively valued at $168 billion and have created an average of 760 jobs per company in the U.S. The study also estimates that immigrants make up over 70% of key management or product development positions at these companies.

In addition, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Eighteen percent (or 90) of the 500 companies had immigrant founders. The children of immigrants started another 114 companies, according to the New American Economy.

Many of the country's favorite brands—such as Budweiser, McDonald's, General Electric, Google, AT&T, Colgate, eBay and IBM—owe their origins to a founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.

What I find truly amazing is that our country is able, and in my opinion will continue to be able, to offer an environment—a fertile ground—on which business will be able to grow, by bringing in people from a variety of cultures and countries, who will continue to help create strong American companies.

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