Does cultural and linguistic diversity have an impact on creativity and innovation performance of teams (in business contexts)?
Research question and its challenges in terms of implementation
The implementation of the research question first involves a conceptual phase, where we read, think and rethink, make theories and revise ideas individually or in a group. We could do a brainstorming, a mindmap, a draft table, a progressive simplification, a research plan, etc. At this stage we could analyze previous empirical research on the topic. We should gather and organise the relevant literature (scientific articles, studies, and books) for our answer. Another crucial step would be giving the relevant literature a closer look in order to check what has been done before on the selected topic, how (what sort of methods were used) and what findings emerged from each study. Secondly, a preparatory phase would follow, by selecting a research design and specifying the centres of interest and making questions, e.g.: Is cultural and linguistic diversity a factor of creativity and innovation in professional contexts? Which is the diversity´s role in innovation? Thirdly, we would state the research themes and goals and the aims of the study. In our case, the purpose is to explore most common types of impact on creativity and innovation performance of teams. This would ultimately reduce the chances of prejudice and wrong judgments in cultural and linguistic diverse teams. The ultimate challenge is to choose the right methodology.
Status quo of research today in the field of multiculturalism/multilingualism´s impact on creativity/innovation performance of teams
It seems that culture and language as factors of innovation in international (business) settings has drawn a modest attention from scholars so far. We share the view that “l´interdisciplinarité est indispensable pour une analyse –critique- des pratiques dans un monde professionnel de plus en plus compétitif, inégalitaire et discriminatoire où la reconnaissance des identités, des compétences et des efforts fournis passe à la trappe dans les courses aux profits e au pouvoir individuels” (Stalder, 2014). To consider collaborative team performance implies thinking about management (role of a leader, attributes of an efficient team or causes of failure, main communication challenges, vision and ambitions) Besides, other elements to judge are: goals and strategies, material and human resources, budget, work plan, efficiency, communication, participation, languages spoken, working climate and ambiance, quality control, group leader, etc. This viewpoint is promising and encouraging for teams: “Misunderstandings resulting from language barriers and socio-cultural differences are everyday occurrences and dominate apparently factual discussions. Cultural diversity can, however, also open up opportunities” (Gassmann, 2001).
Theoretical concept and the specific definition to rely on
“Within creative processes transfer of knowledge is ensured if employees make project-related moves between research, development, and production” (Gassmann, 2001). Considering this, we need to define theoretical key concepts related to communication, multiculturalism, multilingualism, innovation and creativity in order to grasp the wide panorama of cultural and linguistic diversity. According to Chen and Starosta, “intercultural communication competence can be conceived of as the ability to negotiate cultural meanings and to execute appropriately effective communication behaviours that recognize the interactants’ multiple identities in a specific environment” (Chen & Starosta, 1996) For a concept of culture, we prefer to stick to a classic but still prevailing one: “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Burnett Tylor, 1871). As creativity comes first than innovation, we will include the definitions in that order. Creativity is an “imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value” (NACCCE 1999: 30, in Marsh & al. 2009, Compendium). Innovation “is not just an economic mechanism or a technical process. It is above all a social phenomenon. Through it, individuals and societies express their creativity, needs and desires. By its purpose, its effects or its methods, innovation is thus intimately involved in the social conditions in which it is produced.” (European Commission, 1995: 11, in Polt & al., 2014) When viewing communication, we do it under the semiotic perspective “Orchestra model” (Palo Alto), which defines it as a complex process in which individuals are constantly immerged.
Methodology for giving empirical evidence
It is possible to practice interviews, observe actors in the field, search archives and libraries, etc. We would use a mixed-methods approach, i.e: an empirical, qualitative and interdisciplinary position within social sciences (Sociology, Anthropology of communication, psychology and linguistics). This would be combined with methods of explanation and understanding, besides externalisation of internal concepts and theories.
Focus and settings
Identity itself is made up of different belongings (personal character, family, social roots, practices, etc). Like culture, identity is always changing. Our focus is on culture, language, meetings, representation, communication and interaction, language practice and strategy, context, policies, etc. Settings where we situate the answer consist mainly of companies, organizations for Higher education (Universities, etc) and Institutions and bodies.
The answer to the research question is: yes, cultural and linguistic diversity have an impact on creativity and innovation performance of teams. But so far, it has not been scientifically proved. “One of the contributions of the DYLAN project consists of providing a detailed description of the steps which characterise the evaluation of language policies.” (Grin and Gazzola, 2010) Besides, the study by Marsh and Hill explains that the scientific findings reveal that here is no definitive single causal link between multilingualism and creativity. Corina Moscovich
Chen, G.M., & Starosta, W. J. (1996). Intercultural communication competence: a synthesis. Communication Yearbook, 19, 353-383.
Gassmann, Oliver (2001). Multicultural teams: Increasing creativity and Innovation by diversity, in Creativity and innovation management. Volume 10, Number 2.
Grin F. and Gazzola M. (2010) “Assessing efficiency and fairness in language policy and planning”, Applied Linguistics: Global and Local, British Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Conference, University of Aberdeen, UK, 9-11 September 2010.
Marsh avid&al.2009.Study on the Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity, Compendium Part One, Multilingualism and Creativity: Towards an Evidence base. Brussels: European Commission.
Stalder, P. (20149. Regard éloigné, regard rapproché : l´anthropologie et la linguistique au service de l´identification des stratégies de communication en milieu professionnel international. Dans L. Santone et D. Londei, Entre linguistique et anthropologie. Observations de terrain, modèles d'analyse et expériences d'écriture. Berne: Peter Lang.
Taylor, Edward (1871) Primitive culture: researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, language, art, and custom. 2 vols. London, John Murray.