Diversity

 

By Matthew Bufalino, Purdue University Intern, The Corporate Learning Institute

Diversity in the work place is evolving. We are moving away from the traditional diversity of race, gender, and age, towards understanding diversity at a more fundamental level. Our understanding of diversity has come to exist on a more personal level. It is not only our race or gender that makes us diverse, it is our actions, our emotions, our experiences, and who we are that make us diverse.

It is these experiences and the different viewpoints we gain from these experiences that make diversity so valuable to the workplace. From our different experiences we gain new perspectives, skills, and resources that, when combined with other individuals’ experiences, perspectives, skills, and resources can create a creative thinking, problem solving team.

In a study done by Milton Bennett, Bennett paired a group of similar people against a group of diverse individuals. The results of this study showed that in any case the group of diverse individuals either did worse or better then the control group. This is when the idea of inclusion and managing diversity comes to light. The study shows that a good manager of diversity can make a huge difference.

The idea of inclusion is so important; by being an inclusive leader we actively take everyone’s unique diverse skills. An inclusive leader means being able to remove oneself from the situation, to be able to look at the people we manage and see an individual for what makes them unique, and incorporate those unique aspects to work with the team.

Without a strong leader to manage the diversity and actively use inclusion, a group of unlike individuals will fall apart. However, when the diversity is managed well and utilized it makes for a strong, more cohesive problem-solving task force.

Being a college student I have had a lot of opportunities to interact in a diverse setting. As a major in Organizational Leadership I have had the opportunity to experience being a leader. The idea of using everyone’s different skills to optimize the group’s abilities is something that is so simple, and being able to do it well and see the potential of each person individually is a skill that is extremely valuable. Going to a big school, with many majors, it has given me the opportunity to work with so many different people. Not just in race or gender but in experiences, and perspectives. Being around so many unique people has been very helpful in honing this ability.

In a TED Talk with Mellody Hobson, we are introduced to a great concept that further explores the idea of inclusion and how we look at each other. She calls for us to be color brave, not colorblind. We asks that we embrace what make us different, because it is these differences that make us so valuable. She asks that we become more familiar with conversations about race, gender, and everything else that makes us unique. If we are more comfortable with these conversations we can start to see everything else that makes a person unique, and look past these somewhat superficial identifiers.

When we no longer are uncomfortable with what makes us different and are able to effectively have conversations with each other on diversity we can appreciate each other’s differences we can start to see what makes us different on a deeper level. We can look past race, gender, and age and appreciate others for their skills, experiences, and viewpoints we start to become inclusive. This is when the job of a manger is so crucial, to take this potential and utilize it to create a source of creativity, teamwork, and a cohesive successful team.

Diversity has taken on many different faces in history. As we work to become a more diverse in our companies, and own personal lives we have to remember why we need diversity. Diversity gives us a competitive edge, when managed correctly a diverse group of people can come together and do unique things that a group of like-minded people would not. We need to change our focus of diversity to see everyone as individuals, not just for their race, gender, or ethnicity, but for their experiences, their skills, and anything else that may help them to think differently then others.

It is important to remember that with out strong management diversity means little in terms of an advantage, in fact, when mismanaged can become a disadvantage to any group or organization. 

References:

Color Blind or Color Brave. Dir. Mellody Hobson. Perf. Mellody Hobson. TED talks, 2014. Film.

Upside down diversity. Dir. Andres Tapia. Perf. Andres Tapia. TED talks, 2013. Film.

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