Diversity has always been a core value for my group. I have always seen it as both a source of efficiency for the company as well as a definite concern in terms of justice and equality.
However, due to proven discrimination and a large discrepancy between hires and the composition of the population, diversity has been tackled from a legal perspective. We decided, instead, to observe and study a company’s population.
It’s essential to keep fighting everyday racism and discrimination. But I would like to bring up the idea of encounter and the process of co-creation. The notion of a melting pot includes the concept of diversity, but it’s more than that. It encompasses the idea of an encounter and what is born from this encounter: new images, new languages, and a shared history going forward.
By its very nature, a melting pot brings change and renewal to every society. Thanks to this note by Matthieu Fouquet, Human Resources Director for GROUPE ONEPOINT, we can see how this concept also operates within a company, to the benefit of its employees and its creative potential.
Article by Matthieu Fouquet
The melting pot model of integrating diversity does not consist in juxtaposition or multiculturalism – it is a transformation in itself within a company. It is a philosophy of process and movement. A true phenomenon of mutual impact and openness, the melting pot describes the very concept of collective creation.
COMPLEXITY AND DIFFICULTIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE MELTING POT CONCEPT
The concept of a melting pot emerged in the United States as a solution to racial tensions and conflicts. In 2000, 7 million Americans checked both “black” and “white” on census forms. In 2010, more than 50% of the population followed suit. In France, the issue of the intermixing of races is less openly discussed in the public sphere. Diversity is the preferred term, which implies a relationship between individuals of different origins, cultures and genders. However, diversity remains a relatively static, legal way to look at coexistence.
On the other hand, a melting pot is at once an encounter, a transformation, and a creation. However, few use this term. According to French anthropologist and ethnologist Jean-Loup Amselle, “Racial mixing suggests that humanity is made up of separate bloodlines which may be reunited. Behind the theory of race mixing, we have the theory of purity of cultures.” At first sight, the concept of racial intermixing suggests fear of the other and fear of alteration.
THE MELTING POT IS ALL ABOUT BECOMING AND CREATING
Limiting the melting pot concept to race only obscures the depth and relevance of its mechanisms. In fact, a melting pot is possible even without cultural differences. Let’s focus on the process rather than on its components. A melting pot is not a blend of pure essences. It is a constant transformation that has no beginning or end, permanently fuelled by encounters and confrontations. Michel Serres said, “All learning involves cross-fertilization” (Le Tiers-Instruit, 1991).
A melting pot does not need to be thought of as a state of being or a quality; it can be an action, a creation. It goes beyond fusion and cultural coexistence; it’s a personal experience. This experience is made up of four successive phases: shock and the suspension of identities, solitude or isolation, the emergence of new distinct individualities on both sides, then finally an increased sense of community within each individual. This creation of community gives rise to a particular emotion. Let’s look at a well-known example of this: the emergence of rap.
Created by youth from American ghettos, this genre draws inspiration from reggae, blues and jazz. Rap transformed the individuality of these young people through transcendence of the suffering associated with exclusion, unemployment and poverty. The emergence of a new language simultaneously gave birth to a new sense of community with its inherent rules and its imagination. It has brought about a new and permanent creative potential.
The melting pot model of integrating diversity does not consist in juxtaposition or multiculturalism – it is a transformation in itself within a company. It is a philosophy of process and movement. A true phenomenon of mutual impact and openness, the melting pot describes the very concept of collective creation. It is made possible through dialogue and openness to the other.
A melting pot not only aggregates, but creates. It creates new individual and collective meanings. What’s special about these new meanings and this new promise is that they can’t be predicted. In this sense, they offer the potential to perpetually yield benefits.
THE COMPANY AND THE MELTING POT – CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Companies work towards maximizing their collective capacity to innovate. If racial issues can be overcome, diversity offers a permanent co-creation opportunity within any given company.
With this in mind, we can ask ourselves which organizational style is the most likely to draw benefit from the melting pot process. This process, of course, will operate first and foremost in the gaps between a company’s formal behaviors (organizational structures, procedures, etc.) For example, hierarchies and pyramids slow down the melting pot process since they limit individual relations: each person sees the other through the lens of his or her status.
The company and its associates also have a mission that goes beyond organizational structures and the spaces between them: overcoming the anxiety triggered by the melting pot process. To ensure a permanent fusion, it’s up to the company to allay fears of loss of self. On one hand, creation and encounters could be promoted and institutionalized within the company. This can be done by giving time to associates and making space for them. Through personal projects, charity work and art, a melting pot can be created if we allow ourselves to be regularly exposed to the other.
In this manner, the company creates a third managerial dimension. There is the hierarchic dimension, the project dimension, and now we are seeing the emergence of the community and network dimension. Even more than the two aforementioned dimensions, this one affects associates’ personal lives. As it creates new senses of belonging and solidarity, this network dimension goes beyond the company’s boundaries.
THE MELTING POT IS THE WAY OF THE FUTURE
Companies are at the core of society’s growth and values system. They have the social duty of integrating diversity and offering a main stage for the melting pot process because it is an essential condition for productivity and acceptance of associates, and also because it is the path to social harmony. Today, companies must take action of a social nature to reinforce the message that retreat and exclusion have never worked as premises for growth or social peace.
The melting pot is the way of the future for companies. Already, in the services sector, new companies act as social laboratories and cannot be structured like last century’s organizations. These laboratories incorporate and cultivate the learning aspect of each individual. Such companies are no longer closed societies; they bring the individual back to the center of the system.
To achieve this, they steer clear of dogmas and encourage curiosity and encounters above all. It is a return to what children teach us. Children do not see race or social classes, do not have the reflex to retreat or exclude the other, and are simply seeking encounters and shared adventures.
“The future is something that can be overcome. We do not follow the future, we make it.” George Bernanos