Mighty is the Mongrel

February 15, 2012


Mighty is the Mongrel is the title of a brilliant 2007 essay by G. Pascal Zachary in Fast Company magazine. I urge you to read it. And not just because it could also be the rallying call for The Amani Institute.

Zachary argues that embracing diversity (ethnic, intellectual, life-history) and heterogeneity is going to be critical to the success of organizations this century because “the conditions for creating wealth have changed in ways that play to the strengths of hybrid individuals, organizations, and nations”, and because such mongrelization is “the only antidote to stagnation, the only durable source of innovation, the only viable way to preserve…tradition while embracing change.”

This is not new, of course. Nor are the types of stories Zachary tells of how companies like Hewlett-Packard, Phillips, McKinsey, and Schering AG came to this realization and how they have re-tooled their hiring practices and organizational structures to incentivize and promote diversity across the organization. The world’s leading corporations have always retained a keen nose for sensing which way the wind blows.

What’s more interesting is Zachary’s explicit encouragement for boundary-crossing as a key to individual and organizational success. When people go out of their comfort zones into new countries and workplaces, they become invaluable as the stranger who is more likely to question conventional wisdom, or the misfit whose prior experience makes her more likely to articulate a creative solution. They also become more likely to contribute not just their mind but their whole being.

As boundaries between nations, between the classroom and the world outside, between working for a living and working for meaning, all become less meaningful, we must remember that our roots matter too – for both individual and organizational sustenance. This is not a call for the dissolution of individual identity, but for allowing for the development of “both roots and wings” in our employees, our students, our children.

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