How to live in reality

April 12th, 2016 by Douglas McEncroe · No Comments · Leadership

ImmigrationThe recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris and the disturbances on New Year’s Eve in Cologne show that there are real problems in Europe around the integration of their immigrants. Many Europeans have a romantic view of their past in which they long for a time in which everyone in their countries lived together in peace and harmony in a perfectly integrated Utopia. However serious historians know that this perfect past never really existed. As Kenan Malik points out, if we look just at France, at the time of the French revolution only half the population actually spoke French and only 12% spoke it correctly. No doubt the ruling classes looked at that 88% who did not have the same level of “Frenchness” as them with disdain and wished they would not cause problems or perhaps even go away, much the same way as the people who support the National Front today look at France’s Muslim minority today.

Apart from having a distorted view of their own history Western Europeans don’t seem to accept the reality that they are, and have been for the last sixty years, important centres of immigration. The consequences of this are that they don’t have the attitude or the institutions and organisations that work together to help immigrants integrate. This is a criticism that French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy makes when he compares Europe to countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. Lévy argues that in the New World countries, immigrants who learn the language and work hard receive, perhaps after about ten years, a collective wink from their adopted societies that says to them, “your one of us now”. This does not happen in Europe. In my own experience as someone who lived in Europe for thirty years, even in a relatively accepting country like Spain, every week someone would say something to remind me that I was not one of them. If that was my experience as a someone with a Christian and Western background how must it be for someone who is Muslim or Hindu.

Organisations too often live in the past

Organisations often reflect the societies in which they are based or suffer the same human dynamics. And so, companies that have had great histories create myths about their past that only partly reflect reality. But worse than this, they maintain structures, processes and cultures that were appropriate to that past while the world in which they operate has changed radically. It is little wonder that results are often not what they used to be.

Steps to help you live in the real world

  • Have people who constantly look outside your organisation.
  • Communicate internally new trends and ways of doing business.
  • Constantly examine your structure and your processes to see if they are still suited to the world in which you operate.
  • Make your present culture conscious. Identify what people take as givens?
  • Explore new ways of doing things, approach the present with the same courage as the people who founded your organisation.

Western Europe will continue to have problems until it finds a way of integrating its immigrants. Organisations too won’t thrive until they are fully adapted to the world in which they exist.

What does your organisation need to change?


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