Why culture-add is not enough to help teams work better (and what can!)

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OpenLearning is a diverse, global company of over 70 staff consisting of 20+ nationalities across offices in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore: a real potpourri of cultures, beliefs and values. We see this diversity as a strength.

Nevertheless, ‘diversity’ in itself is no guarantee for achieving positive outcomes within a team. Magic doesn’t just happen by putting an assortment of people together. Instead, it has to be done ‘”By Design”.

If your team has diverse perceptions, thoughts and approaches, it can be challenging to work together. But is there a way to use this challenge as an advantage by being more innovative in our approach to diversity?

PuraPura Day

As companies continue to emphasise the importance of culture-add, bringing in multiple perspectives, approaches, and skills to your organisation is not enough to make teams innovate and (positively) disrupt.

What your teams need is a psychologically safe space 

Cultivating a psychologically safe space is where diverse perspectives and approaches are heard and encouraged.

It is a space where your team’s cognitive diversity is embraced to get your team daring to share their ideas, question the norms and tackle the uncomfortable to implement clever and inventive ideas — together.

In order to build a safe space, why not implement a collaborative and reflection activity to get started?

Inspired by OpenLearning’s education values, I have designed a simple activity for you to trial and incorporate into any team-related meet-ups such as team standups or learning sessions! This could also apply for those of you who are running blended courses.

Activity: Exploring and Connecting Workplace Experiences

Goal: To reflect, share and put your team’s work experiences or learning into perspective
35 minutes

Step 1: Take charge of your learning (5 min)

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Empower your team to drive their own learning at work.

For this part of the activity, ask your team to prepare these reflections beforehand:

  • List the tasks that you are currently doing
  • What are the highlights of your overall tasks and work experiences
  • What are the lowlights of your overall tasks and work experiences

Before your meeting starts, get your team to set up their own “mini stations” with their laptops in different parts of the room.

To make it more exciting, your team could prepare their ideas in creative ways each month. For example, you can explore the use of  moodboards or Padlet.

Step 2: Ignite curiosity (20 min)


Once the “mini stations” have been set up, separate your team into two. One team will explore the mini stations while the other team answers any questions they may have.

  • The ‘explore’ team

Encourage this group (and yourself) to ask questions at each station and to refrain from commenting or giving feedback right away.

Sometimes, we can be too quick to give away our evaluations or answers rooted in our own perspectives without properly verifying the actual situation.

Instead, the explorers can practice asking questions about each other’s tasks, highlights and lowlights.

  • The ‘response’ team

The other group responds to the questions asked by the exploring team.  

Get your team to feel comfortable sharing their challenges and successes  by encouraging them to begin with their experiences—such as what their project is about, who they’re working with, and so on.

Swap roles once you are done. Depending on how big your team is, you might have 1-2 rounds and each round should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

BONUS: You can also prepare a set of questions to guide your team if they are not sure where to start.

Step 3: Reflect as a team (10 min)


Once you and your team are done, it is time to identify what support your team needs.

Bring your team together to reflect and share the following:

  • What can you or your team do to sustain your highlights of work experiences?
  • What can your team do to support you during your lowlights?

And that’s the end of the activity!

This simple, 3-step exercise incorporates social learning, which is important for your team to put what they have learned from their work into perspective.

By creating a space for your team to share and reflect their work experiences, you can guide them to learn within their context and think critically of various approaches or solutions.


Essentially, this will help you to create a psychologically safe environment that embraces cognitive diversity.

What are some of your strategies to create a psychologically safe space for your team? Let us know below!

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