Diversity begins close to home

Professor John Newton

Diversity begins close to home

Professor John Newton

For years now our corporate training and consulting services have provided many tools and exercises for tackling interpersonal differences at work. Such methods, however, often fall far short of meeting tensions that derive from our ‘cultural self’ rather than our individual personalities. It is hard to grasp our cultural self because culture is not something we have; rather culture is something that has us. It is made up of all the messages we have internalised about ‘people like us’ that come to the fore when we encounter ‘people not like us’. Usually, we are not aware of internalising such cultural messages but they become so integral to our sense of identity that we get defensive when we need to collaborate with or depend on people who internalised different messages about the right way to be.

Lessons in the right way to be, start early as we are shaped by our gender, skin colour, authority relations, family history, politics, economic circumstances, spirituality, social grouping and schooling. Too often we react to the appearance of these markers and do not take the time to explore received cultural messages and the assumptions hidden within them. Instead, our emotional reactions to cultural markers can provoke all sorts of defences against the immediate experience of the ‘other’; defences such as stereotypes, fantasies, irrational fears, overcompensation, denigration, idealisation, avoidance, envy and mimicry. It is not enough to read descriptions of the other’s culture. First, we have to understand our own cultural identity in order to accept our own ‘otherness’, then to practice ways of mindfully negotiating our emotional responses to the ‘other’ whilst being respectfully curious. It requires learning from experience with others who wish to manage more productively the inter-cultural dynamics that are increasingly part of our daily lives. Or as Primo Levi put it, to achieve a state of mind where “….the differences in our origins make
us rich in ‘exchangeable goods’, like two merchants who meet after coming from remote and mutually unknown regions.”

I am pleased to recommend the following NIODA short course as a robust, educative and developmental way of exploring untapped riches in the cultural relations between us and them.

John Newton

Professor Emeritus John Newton

September 2021

Diversity begins close to home

Prof John Newton: Reflection in Action Panel

John Newton

Professor Emeritus, NIODA

From 2002-2008 John was Associate Professor of Organisation Dynamics, RMIT University and Director of the Masters in Organisation Dynamics. He was the founding director (1987) of the Master in Organisation Behaviour at the Swinburne University of Technology where he initiated the first Group Relations Conference for Australian postgraduate management students in 1988. This conference was offered annually introducing more than 500 managers to learning for leadership in the Tavistock tradition.

John is now a freelance consultant, part-time lecturer, action researcher and author who draws principally from the systems psychodynamic field. He is the lead editor of J.Newton, S. Long and B. Sievers (Eds.), 2006. Coaching In Depth. The Organisational Role Analysis Approach. Karnac: London and he has editorial responsibilities with the journals Socioanalysis and Organisational and Social Dynamics.

He is a member of ISPSO and a founding member and past-President of GRA.

Diversity training with a difference: Dr Brigid Nossal and Ms Helen McKelvie

AUD $2,000 for six live interactive online two-and-a-half-hour sessions

These sessions are fully interactive and online. The commitment is for six, two-and-a-half-hour sessions on Tuesday afternoons 3.30 – 6 pm (Melbourne time). The two and a half hours will involve short seminars, experiential learning activities, group discussion and reflection for integration of learning.

3.30 – 6 pm 🇨🇰  Melbourne
12.30 – 3 pm 🇸🇬  Singapore
10.00 am – 12.30 pm 🇮🇳 New Delhi
5.30 – 8 am 🇬🇧  London
6.30 – 9 am 🇧🇪 Brussels
12.30 – 3 am (eek!) 🇺🇸  New York

The time listed below is set to calculate the first start time depending on the time zone of your computer.  The first session will start at:

time start


The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867

NIODA acknowledges the Kulin Nations, and respective Traditional Custodians of the lands we work on.
We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise their enduring sovereignty which has, and continues to, care for Country.
NIODA welcomes the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a collective movement for a better future.

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