Human organizations, from business to schools to volunteer networks, each develop their own cultural structures over time. We know that cultural diversity — when individuals in a group hold a variety of values and beliefs — can spur creativity and innovation. It can also lead to conflict. We know less about how cultural diversity emerges or behaves in organizations. Anjali Bhatt, an incoming Omidyar Fellow, uses natural language processing, agent-based modeling, and machine learning to analyze empirical data and build theoretical models to understand the dynamics of organizational cultural diversity. She is particularly interested in how those dynamics change when individuals cross the boundaries of one organization to another.
Bhatt, who holds an AB in physics from Harvard University and is completing a PhD in organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, blends organizational and cultural theories, which are grounded in sociology, with the mathematical models of evolutionary biology and the quantitative tools of computational linguistics. Developing a systematic theory for cultural diversity in organizations could help managers who are increasingly being asked to consider cultural change and diversity, and also offer broader social relevance as well. “If we want to understand cultural shifts in society, we might want to understand more about what’s happening in organizations,” says Bhatt.