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The core premise of my business is that “difference works.” Diverse groups make better decisions and get better results than homogeneous groups. We know that people tend to feel more comfortable with people who look and think like they do. So, to leverage the power of difference, we need to make that tendency conscious and see a reason to override it.
When we think of difference, we think of race, religion, nationality, geographic roots, sexual orientation, gender and socio-economic background. To develop the “muscles” to appreciate difference, it might help to recognize that, even if you seem to operate in apparently homogenous groups, you may have deep experience working with difference.
I am a Caucasian, middle class, American, female, Southern, heterosexual mother recovering from workaholism and in relatively good physical condition. Working next to me may be an African American, upper middle class, male Muslim gay nurse from New York who is a couch potato—or a female Italian hearing impaired astrophysicist. Some of these differences are visible (or audible as when I open my mouth).
The less visible types of difference include personality traits, personal history and styles of thinking or communicating. There are many instruments to measure this sort of difference, designed to help us appreciate people who think of operate differently than we do—e.g., the Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator, Social StylesSM, Emergentics®, the Enneagram.
When we see how many ways that difference show up, we realize homogeneity may be a myth. We are all, if not “one of a kind,” different in some way. On my website (http://difference-works.com) is an instrument that you can use to identify categories of difference within a group. It is under “Free Downloads” on the “About Us” tab. Click on “Cultural Composition: How We Are Different.” On the instrument are 12 categories of difference, representing a selection from hundreds of possible categories; the variations shown in each category are also merely representative.
Does this make you think about “difference” or “diversity” more broadly? In what ways have you developed your ability to appreciate and leverage difference?