Cultural Diversity as an Organizational Resource: Survey of Guam Leaders

By Walter, Ansito; Salas, Marilyn C. | Journal of International Business Research, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Cultural Diversity as an Organizational Resource: Survey of Guam Leaders


Walter, Ansito, Salas, Marilyn C., Journal of International Business Research


INTRODUCTION

Why do we believe that a study about cultural diversity in Guam is important? What and how can this study contribute toward public and private organizations, better understanding of cultural sensitivity and competency for places with diverse social and cultural environments? How will this particular study enlighten and strengthen our understanding of cultural diversity as supervisors, managers, administrators, and leaders in a 21st century Guam and as a role model in the global economy?

Edward Taylor first defined the concept of culture in 1871 as a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. Culture is a traditional series of behavioral instructions transmitted from person to person or from generation to generation through time (Case, 1977). Culture plays a major role in shaping and determining our meanings and perceptions of reality (Covey, 1989). R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. depicted diversity as differences, similarities, and tensions that can and do exist between the elements of different mixtures [multiple races, gender, multicultural, multilingual, multi-religious society] of people (Hesselbein and Goldsmith, 2006).

People are the cornerstone of society or any known successful human organizations. The most successful organizations in the 20th and 21st centuries are those organizations that are peoplecentered; that place the greatest value in their stakeholders (customers, employees and associates). Employee diversity can and will increase imagination, creativity, innovation, group problem solving, and productivity (Kinicki and Kreitner, 2008; Schermerhorn/Hunt/Osborn, 2005).

Peter and Waterman Jr, (1982) depicted how understanding and harnessing cultural attributes had contributed toward the success and competitive advantage of the most excellent and innovative companies in the United States. Understanding people and cultures is not only vital but is a necessity. Understanding cultural diversity in the global economy is ethical; it is socially responsible to do things right and do the right things (Sims, 2003).

It is critical and indeed essential that today's organizational managers and leaders develop a mindset that values diversity and sees diversity as an organizational resource, while also seeing the integration of diversity into the organization's culture as the right and socially responsible thing to do. Organizations that view valuing and managing diversity as the ethical and socially responsible thing to do can reap the rewards of increased quality of service and productivity and improved organizational health.

GUAM'S HISTORY

Guam's history is a natural progression of cultural diversity. The migration of people to Guam changed Guam's composition and has contributed to Guam's cultural makeup.

Guam by comparison is the largest island in Micronesia, covering an area of approximately 225 square miles; 30 miles long and 4 to 9 miles wide. It is located at the southernmost end of a chain of fifteen islands called the Marianas in honor of Queen Maria of Spain. These islands are situated between the 13th and 20th parallels of north latitude, and along the 145th meridian east of Greenwich (Carano and Sanchez, 1964).

Although the history of the peoples of Guam and the rest of Micronesia remains a scientific conjecture, radio-carbon dating of cultural artifacts indicates that the Island of Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands were settled around 2500 B.C. by Austronesian-Malayo-Polynesian sea-faring speaking people descended from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The early inhabitants of Guam and the rest of the Mariana Islands referred to themselves as "Chamorros". It seemed that they were the only ethnic group of the Mariana Islands and their Chamorro language which descended from an Austronesian-Malayo-Polynesian mother language appeared to be the only spoken language of the islands during ancient times (Alkire, 1972).

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