Dr. Paul Nurse is the president of the British Royal Society and the president of the Rockefeller University in New York City.  In 2001, he won the Nobel Prize for his research on DNA and cell division.

Fred Guterl, writing for Scientific American, asserts Nurse’s global platform of experience renders him especially proficient in the cultural differences between European and North American scientists.  In a recent interview with Scientific American, Nurse makes some interesting observations about the state of science in the international arena (“Culture of Creativity” October 2012, pp. 52–53):

“There is a massive collaboration going on in science.  More than 35 percent of articles being published in the highest-quality journals are now internationally collaborative, up from about 25 percent 15 years ago.  Collaboration is increasing and probably will increase to a very surprising level.” (p. 52)

Notice Nurse is highlighting the powerful collaboration that is occurring.  In the midst of all this wonderful collaboration, he observes the cultural distinctives that exist too:

“There are some cultural differences in the way we approach science.  In the U.S., for example, there’s a particular emphasis on the individual.  In Europe, the focus is more on collaboration.  In the Far East, there is interest in generating large quantities of data, the bedrock on which science works.” (p. 52)

Nurse’s comments are very exciting.  They illustrate the power of diversity.  Even though scientists all speak the same language of science, they still approach their disciplines at least partially from their cultural backgrounds.

Being a scientist certainly means you maintain the rigors of your discipline and the integrity of your scholarship.  But it never robs you of your unique insights and approaches that derive from who you are culturally.

In the business world—and indeed in all areas of our lives—we can prosper from this understanding.  We can allow the common language we speak to unite us.  Simultaneously, we can respect the unique cultural differences that enrich us.  Extensive collaboration in the midst of rich diversity promises higher quality for everyone.

In reflecting on the diverse mix of scientists working together, Nurse concludes:

“The cultural mix is very enriching.” (p. 52)

Nurse views the power of that diversity in conjunction with shared goals as being so effective, it will even bring nations together:

“Scientists speak the same language.  We understand one another in different countries because we deal with things in similar ways.  We take a common approach to problems.  Science is a catalyst that can break down the gulf between nations.” (p. 53)

In your professional life, and in your personal life, think about the things that unite you with the people around you.  Then think about the unique differences that exist, and choose to view them as assets rather than barriers.

You might be surprised at how much you have in common.

scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″
style=”border:none; width:450px; height:80px”>

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

Leave a Reply