Have you ever used any of the transport cards like Oyster card in London or Opal card in Sydney?
Let me tell you a secret about them!
Opal card doesn’t work in Melbourne! An Oyster card doesn’t work in Liverpool.
The Opal card is designed to work just fine in Sydney but when you visit Melbourne, you will need to have MyKi to go around the city. Opal card is also unusable in Brisbane where you will need GoCard and in London where you will need an Oyster card.
These cards are designed to work perfectly well in their home cities, and they become pretty much useless beyond their borders!
On the other hand, think of Uber — as an example of the ride sharing apps.
You can start using Uber the moment you land in any of the cities it covers around the world — 100s of them. Not only that, the app is designed to adjust to some local businesses and cultural needs: you can ride a tuk tuk in Al Ghuna, in Egypt, a boat in Istanbul or a helicopter in Melbourne! In some cities, you can pay by cash or even air miles instead of credit cards.
These apps are designed to work horizontally across borders and territories. And their flexibility in terms of adjusting to the needs of a local market is an essential feature. Unlike transport cards, which are vertically designed to operate in a single geo-fenced territory.
If you think about it, the world around us is designed to work to a great extent more like an Opal card than an Uber app.
In many situations, our educational systems, business practices and social norms are designed to promote some type of “local values” and prepare us to navigate life in our local societies, where we are in our comfort zones.
But once we cross a virtual or physical border to another cultural system or when we encounter other cultures in our own local city, some people and enterprises begin to struggle to connect, interact or even understand the differences and diversity in this new multicultural space.
Here in Australia, for example, only 1 in 4 Diversity and Inclusion practitioners and change agents report that Diversity & Inclusion change management is implemented effectively (according to the Diversity Council Australia).
The way I see it, this “rigid vertical system design” doesn’t belong to the 21st century, the most interconnected age in the whole of human history!
In my “tale of two cities” life, and through many personal travels and business engagements, I’ve witnessed some situations in which some companies or individuals stopped functioning and missed some great opportunities due to their limited ability to handle and leverage the diversity of a multicultural environment.
They became more like an Opal card in Melbourne!
This “Uber Vs. Opal” analogy was the key message in my talk at the Networking in Nature event last week in Sydney:
So, do you recall a situation in which you needed to culturally adjust? How did you handle it? Did you manage to behave like an Uber? or did you actually get confused and acted more like an Opal card in Melbourne?
Regardless, there’s always a lesson you can learn from such situation.
How about you share your lessons, insights and ideas with us here? That would be a great contribution to my personal journey and the journey of others who are reading this story.