In order to maximize the value of diversity, an inclusive (work) culture is needed. Using the eight guidelines for creating an inclusive culture, the promise of diversity (which is creativity, innovation, quality) can be realized. In this series of Inclusion Guidelines blogs, I will focus on a new guideline each week. This week #2: challenge your truth.
If you’ve been successful in not cloning yourself, then diversity is a fact. Now it’s time to put that diversity to work. In order to do this, we need to acknowledge and hear every perspective (see video clip). In other words: it’s time to create an inclusive culture. And that starts by challenging your own truths.
The main question that frequently comes up when people experience diversity is: What’s normal, and who determines that? Who owns “the truth”? In order to truly make room for all differences, we need to open our minds to other perspectives. Diversity challenges us to open ourselves up to discussion about our own routines and things we feel are ‘normal’ and are second nature to us.
Things don’t have meaning in and of themselves – people assign meaning to things. And when a whole group of people assigns meaning to a certain situation or behavior, then it’s called “culture.” It is from this cultural perspective that they determine what “common sense” is. In this second guideline on creating inclusion, we exchange our “common sense” for “cultural sense and common ground.”
Questions to ask yourself and others are: Can you really look at an existing reality in another way? Do you dare to question your own assumptions and truths about “good leadership,” “good feedback,” “good parenting,” and “timely planning,” for example?
Some routines and truths are easier to challenge than others. Much of the work I do is about this very thing: continuously learning to view things in a different light and surprising yourself by what you find. A great example of this is my blog with Derek Sivers’ TED Talk about the different ways in which people from Japan and the United States look at street maps.
Ultimately, making good use of diversity means not just adjusting rules of the game, but changing the game itself. This can only happen when you reflect on your own biases, your preconceived notions. Let go of the illusion that you can be free of prejudice. Welcome your own judgments and prejudices – investigate them. Participate in one of the assessments from Harvard’s Project Implicit. Be curious, ask yourself questions, and listen. Surprise yourself. Be a creative observer. Ask yourself: Why do I do the things I do? Could I do things differently? Could I improve the quality of what we do if we combine our perceptions?
The promise of diversity (creativity and innovation) can be found everywhere when you regularly question your own truths, and when you’re able to create a culture as a group, department, or team wherein all perspectives are welcome. When you’re able to open yourself up to new ways of looking at the world, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you.
…and then it’s time for Guideline 3. To be continued…