Of all the Soft Skills, building cross boundary teams is perhaps the most challenging. Historically, we humans have been very tribal. Studies conducted the world over show that we like people who look like us, we prefer food that we are used to, we largely live according to the customs that we have been taught, and we usually embrace the spirituality of our parents and community. This is all natural. “Birds of a feather flock together,” as the saying goes.
The challenge for all of us is that this world of homogeneity is rapidly being superseded by increasing contact and interaction of all our tribes, communities, nations and cultures. No one is an island anymore. Borders are increasingly porous to travel, trade, television, music, sports, culture and entertainment. It is estimated that over 10 million people fly each and every day somewhere around the world and that over 10,000 planes are in the air at any given time. That’s just travel. People from all over the world are watching the same movies and sporting events. Take the World Cup or the Olympics. Several billion people watch them every four years. Food is another example. In almost every city, you can eat all kinds of different ethnic foods. In fact, our generation is doing something completely new for humans — we are creating a global culture by bringing diversity together into a new understanding of ourselves, each other and our future.
The corporations are at the cutting edge of this trend. Increasingly, companies are global, selling products worldwide and hiring employees and executives from the global marketplace. This is bringing diverse people, ideas and cultures together in increasingly dynamic ways. This is both exciting and challenging. It is hard enough getting along with your family, your friends, all the people you know. How challenging is it to come together creatively and energetically with people completely different from you? It takes open-mindedness, perseverance, tolerance, and trust. It is a Soft Skill that must be learned. Building cross boundary teams is both an art and a science and increasingly it is a critical skill for all of us to master.
The most fundamental aspect of cross boundary team building is respecting and embracing diversity. Most people look down on other people who are different. Condescension must be replaced by curiosity. Difference must come to mean novelty, opportunity, something to learn about and from. This applies to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, nation of origin and talent. Studies show that the more diversity there is in a team and the more the team embraces that diversity as a strength, the more creative, collaborative and effective that team is. Diversity is the key to creativity, and creativity is the key to solving complex problems.
Cross boundary team building is a core skill taught in Ubiquity’s Foundation in Soft Skills program.