One of the first courses for my master degree was organizational leadership. To pass the class, we had to analyze a merge from the company’s culture point of view. I chose the merge between two technology companies. I started by reading everything I got about the buying company culture, and it was pretty clear that they believed in a diverse workforce. They believe that their competitive advantage is achieved through their people and that they drive innovation through diversity. Those statements were the first time I recognized there is something called diversity.
Many times after that I read about the advantages of having people from different backgrounds, race, nationality or gender together, like for example in this article from McKinsey & Company, Catalyst.org, and Industry Week. If we only associate with people with our same belief and point of view, we will never grow, we will never learn. We all need the exposition to different ideas. We need to force yourself to listen to ideas coming from people from another country, from a different political party or maybe just with a different neighborhood. Some of those ideas or points of view may teach us something, may help us to see the world through a different color glass.
In our work areas, it is particularly important to have people with different beliefs, different gender, a cross-cultural team that stop the group from falling prey of alike thinking. No diversity means seeing the world from one color glass only, always the same thing, no variety. The group will never try to break the status quo because nobody sees the necessity to do it, condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over because nobody thinks different.
During my lean journey, the best ideas almost always come from the most unlikely person, the one that does not know “anything” about the process, the one exposed to a different environment, or with work experience on a different industry. Perhaps coming from the quietest person, that one that does not like to talk or feel fear to do so.
During brainstorming sessions, it is common to see the think alike group trying to shut people with completely different ideas. They will go nuts to hear the “crazy” proposition, they won’t let the person talk. We have to develop a thicker skin, learn to listen even when we don’t like or agree. Every idea needs to be discussed for its own merits, with facts, not emotions.
Our companies, neighborhoods, and countries are better and stronger when we embrace diversity and tolerance,. Not accepting it, is like walking with a blindfold, we will miss half of the great things we have around.