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Diversity

A CASE FOR DIVERSITY

“If a person is sitting backward on a horse, why do we assume that it is the person who is backward, not the horse?”

 

Have you been to a symphony or a concert lately?  Picture the orchestra or band and imagine the composition being performed. The harmony of the music depends on multiple notes.  The richness of the music depends on multiple instruments. The success of the performance depends on a talented conductor blending diverse sounds into a coherent, magnificent whole. The moment is made even more commanding when the funny looking, odd sounding instruments take their moment and contribute in their distinctive way.  The musicians carrying the melody may be more powerful; the sounds of the stringed instruments may be more popular and the brass may be more prominent, but the unusual sound of the occasional oboe would be missed if not there, the idiosyncratic bassoon adds impact to the experience and the tiny triangle has its place in the over all sound. 

 

Like an orchestra, your organization needs diversity. Not just diversity of age, gender, national origin, race and sexual preference, that is both critical and obvious, but diversity in thinking. Organizations and the people in them must embrace the unusual, the different, and the nonconforming. 

 

“People who dance appear to be insane to those who cannot hear the music.  George Carlin

 

Creativity and problem solving are enhanced when you encourage diversity because of the expanded amount of raw data in the collective experiences of the group.  The more diverse the group, the broader the range of experience, ideas, information and opinion.  The collective mind can see the problem from many different vantage points.  It can generate far more alternatives and lend multiple perspectives to the analysis of the solution. 

"Problems cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them."  Albert Einstein

People who are defined as nonconforming or unconventional, can add a tremendous richness to the discussions and conclusions of a group.  They will help people see things differently.  They can save the group from premature consensus.  They can ask the tough questions and present a new way to look at a problem or think about a solution.

Diversity is the result of different experiences, perceptions, ideals, aptitudes, skills, opinions, values, attitudes, motives and perspectives.  Organizational communication, decision making, problem solving, planning, resource allocation, and relationship building are all complicated by this phenomenon and that is why some organizations shy away from an outright commitment to multiplicity.  The positive features of working and living in a diverse environment, however, far outweigh the difficulties. Although there may be more potential conflict in a diverse group, the fertile discussions, distinctive suggestions, eclectic experiences, and multiple points of view should enhance the group’s information base, creativity, problem solving ability and satisfaction.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”  Emile Chartier

A group without diversity is like a library with one book. Even if the book is a well-written classic with a tremendous wealth of wit and wisdom, it is only one source. After multiple readings, it can get stale and even outdated. It will get too familiar and will become predictable.  Diversity, on the other hand, is like having a library with multiple books.  Books with new ideas, obscure information, different styles, interesting facts, and exciting data.  Some are better than others, but they all have something to offer.

There are many ways you can prepare yourself for a diverse environment. Take deliberate steps to expand your friendships and acquaintances. Build new relationships into your life. Take some risks. Read material authored by people who don’t share your opinion.  Try to understand their perspective.  You may not agree, but that is OK.  You are not trying to transform yourself into someone else. You are only trying to understand.

The only way you can personally grow is to expose yourself to new people, new experiences and new ideas. Stretch and be challenged. As the globe gets smaller and smaller, the versatile, adaptable, open-minded individual will grow and prosper. When people think, act or look different than you, it can momentarily be uncomfortable.  It is easier to work with and live around people who are like you, but then where is the motivation to change, grow, think and critically evaluate your decisions? 

Shake up your routines. Expose yourself to new environments. Go somewhere different on your annual vacation; take classes; try a new fashion; talk to someone with an unusual accent. Get out of that comfort zone. Look at life as a classroom without walls. Take the initiative.

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"When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice." Marquis de la Grange.  This practice inhibits creativity and starves the organization.  Don’t just tolerate differing points of view, encourage them.

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