Reason #1: The Definition — DEI is More.
Today, in spite of all our society has been through, we talk about diversity in a very limited fashion. That’s why it becomes a box to check rather than an actual strategic imperative. Did we hire enough black people? LGBT people? Women? And the conversation usually ends there.
Diversity is more. The benefits of diversity are far-reaching. Hiring people from different social and economic strata provides the benefit of ever-expanding perspective, insight, and innovation to a company.
There are myriads of studies and high-impact research studies demonstrating te correlation between diversity and higher performance, greater company innovation, and greater employee engagement. Yet companies may sometimes fall into doubt, since managing diversity itself is not easy:will this actually work for us, too? Do we have the time ot make it work?
The answer is yes, you do.
It’s not only about hiring for diversity in external identifying factors. It’s about hiring for diversity in thought, in experience, and in work styles.
More and more our focus should be on hiring people with diversity in EXPERIENCE, as an offshoot of diversity in race, gender, and sexual identity — yet companies seem to still only focus on the optics.
We focus on checking boxes rather than really embracing all that diversity offers us. That’s why inclusion ends up being the real equation to solve in most companies.
Reason #2: The Brain
Inclusion requires the REAL mindset shift. Understanding that the “minority” hire is as worthy of respect and honor as the “majority” hire. It requires a real curiosity and open-mindedness that most people simply, don’t have. We always gravitate towards those who are “like us” — it gives our way of being validation.
The shift needed for an inclusive culture is to embrace and gravitate towards those who are “not like us” — with constant curiosity.
This goes against everything that is hard-wired in us. Our species evolved to prioritize safety and security over all else — during our primal days this meant sticking with our “tribe” and protecting our resources from “others.”
Old habits die hard, and although our brains have developed a long way, the primal brain is still a huge driving force in us. The only way to overcome this natural impulse for similarity is to recognize it and actively oppose it.
Two Paths— One Less Explored
Similarity gives our way of being validation — which gives our egos a nice little rush. When we find similarity, the conversation flows effortlessly. We finish eachother’s sentences. We know exactly what the other person is talking about, and we can contribute our perspective to it easily — it creates an additive effect. It gives power to something which is already known. It feels COMFORTABLE. Yet, we don’t learn anything new.
Difference on the other hand is a bit more challenging. It requires a completely “different” approach. We have to be willing to be receptive, curious, and open-minded — otherwise, difference can devolve into resentment and conflict. We have to accept to some extent the limitations of our own understanding and ask more questions. It doesn’t feel good to everyone, as some people would rather have all the answers. Yet at its best, it creates a holistic, multi-dimensional effect. It can feel INSPIRING.
Learn to balance the rush you might get from meeting a kindred spirit, with the rush you could get by being curious, learning about someone new, thinking about things in a different way, or trying on another person’s experience.
Often we find ourselves veering away from curiosity — we are in a culture that favors independence, privacy, and staying in our bubble to avoid trouble. Is this really always conducive to organizational goals, though?
Curiosity in an organization has more benefits than traditional diversity and inclusion. It enables informal learning. It enables employees to step across the limits of their teams and organizational siloes and discover what others are doing and how their work fits in.
So perhaps, don’t try so hard to build a “culture of diversity and inclusion” — it will be at best artificial. First, try to build a culture of curiosity and open-mindedness . Inclusion will be a natural side effect.