Born in Aachen-Germany, Ilham A.Habibie has been exposed to an Indonesian-German bi-cultural environment that has shaped his unique personality. The Sorotan team caught up with him on a comfortable late afternoon, in which he shared his perspective on the topic of diversity. Beginning with a statement that set the tone for the rest of the discussion; “a person would have such a self-defeating mindset, if he or she didn`t want to get involved in a diverse workplace”, Ilham said.
In your perspective what is diversity? Should diversity be an indicator of differences?
Attaining an understanding, diversity tends to be contextual. What people need to get used to is the fact that diversity is inherent in nature. Basically, diversity is to accept reality and in reality nothing is static. This acceptance of reality is possible, because as humans we have the ability to adapt. If we look at Indonesia, with its culture being divided into three traditional platforms: tribe, religion and race; the country has proven that being diverse isn`t the same as being different.
From biological point of view, diversity should be a built-in feature. An extreme example is the scenario in which everybody is the same and a virus comes and infects us and all people lose their strength and die. Here, a concept of diversity is crucial. Species can survive because they are diverse. Thus, we could say that there would be no evolution without diversity.
Diversity is understood through redundancy as the idea should be biological evolution concept. If we imagine a world with no diversity, we would be sure that such a world would simply collapse; a world with no diversity is a dream world.
What role does diversity play in creating advantages in industries?
Global diversity could be a source of innovation in industrial implementation. Firstly, it takes people inside the industries to be able to understand competitors and more importantly to come up with smart marketing strategies. The advantages are taken from how having different people in a team creates a variety of ideas, which on average is better than just clinging to efforts of one single person. This is to sustain the companies` management.
On the other hand, breakthrough innovation obviously can also be good when it`s being performed through a one man show. Steve Jobs is a great model to learn from, as his dictator-like leadership got his team to obtain everything. Innovation was truly blossoming at Apple back then.
How can fair competition be implemented effectively in a diverse workplace?
Definitely, the job offer should be open and the selection process should be fair. By implementing the right process, competition tends to be unbiased.
How does subjectivity affect a leader`s mindset in organization arrangement?
A subjective point of view always exists in people`s minds. The question is just to what extent or what proportion the level of subjectivity level. In a hiring situation, in which two candidates with equal skill and competency are being assessed to fill a vacancy, the decision maker may still make a hiring judgement based on his subjectiveness.
Could you give an example where diversity could be challenge?
Diversity can become a serious challenge in matters of management, in which information and education are key factors. No one can be blamed based on his background, but everybody should have the same chance. Especially in a modern state, equal opportunity to anyone is something fundamental. Hence, diversity should be something accepted in such a state.
Concerning challenges, Indonesians today have seen the world through a different experience. It`s predicted that the country is going to experience rapid development into an environment where diversity will be prevalent. Of course, nothing can stop it; even only through a laptop, one can experience the world`s diversity.
Any ideas on any future innovation that incorporates diversity?
I think bringing diversity from the countryside into the city would be fantastic; I`m talking about the idea of urban farming. This will not be something like plant decorations in buildings, but what I`m referring to is agricultural production in people`s apartments. Imagine that in people`s mega apartment, there is a robotic neighbour planting vegetables and people can order to pick up the plants. Perhaps it could be healthier if vegetables were planted inside an apartment building; it would be possible to have them grown within a controlled good weather environment.
Having been born and raised in Germany until you reached the age of 31, what is your experience with diversity having lived there?
I easily found myself among German friends and I got along well with them as I spoke the same language. To my peers, I was not different at all. What I witnessed was that Germany had changed into a country with an increasingly diverse atmosphere; with all the immigration, the assimilation and acculturation processes transforming the country with varied cultures blended together.
One fabulous example is the head of liberal party in Germany. He is 100% of Vietnamese blood, but he was adopted and has no Vietnamese culture whatsoever. We can now also see Asian faces who conduct themselves very much according to German behaviours. This is another proof of the existence of diversity; that a non-German living in the country can be shaped identically to a native German.
In addition, I don`t agree if the Germans are labelled as being `obedient`. I prefer the term ` discipline`. The meaning of obedient can sound like someone who accepts a situation without the potential to be critical, for example the ability to ask questions.
Having been a lecturer in classes with over 400 students in Germany, I consider my students themselves as being disciplined ones. They went to me to ask questions to confirm everything, and when they agreed they became fully committed to execute. Once they agree, German people carry out what they have to. They do not possess a backstabing mindset.
“Diversity is to accept reality and in reality nothing is static”