12 Apr Diversity and Growth
Have you ever wondered how the first ancestor to humans who started to walk on two legs was treated by their fellow pre-humans? They probably thought it was pretty odd, maybe even downright strange – that is to say, if they were capable of that deep level of cognition. Was that first pre-human ostracized? How did they make it through? While these answers may forever elude us, today we walk on two legs, while before we were mostly quadrupeds; we wouldn’t be the species we are today without diversity. Evolution is diversity and growth in practice; species and traits that aren’t diverse enough face extinction at the hands of something that exploits their weaknesses. Adaptability and diversity go hand in hand. There is no growth without diversity.
Culture, is, in many ways, an extension of biological evolution, insofar as the same principles that apply to one seem to apply to the other. Diversity of culture is important because it shores us up against potential pitfalls of monolithic culture. A culture that is too focused on reason, for example, might find it difficult to embrace metaphor and feeling; this culture might result in people feeling disconnected from the world around them. Conversely, a culture too focused on emotion might end up in long-term blood feuds, incapable of moving past the grief that has been caused by one too many slights. These cultures can learn from each other, and their weaknesses become less pronounced; this can only happen if the two cultures exist simultaneously, interacting with each other in order to produce better results. Evolution, but through culture.
This same concept exists on an individual level, too. You might have understandings of the world that could benefit others, a way of thinking and perceiving that helps those around you better understand the universe. In turn, they might understand things in ways you don’t. A classic example of this is early photography, which was biased towards white people; had they had a more diverse staff, they would have realized that the film was terrible at showing people of darker skin tones. It was also terrible at showing darkly stained wood and other things; not enough diversity of perspective led to serious consequences for their end product. Diversity is growth; it allows you to see through the eyes of another, which gives you a more complete picture of the world.
The statements I’ve made so far are true, but only in a world where diversity is embraced. When it’s rejected, it quickly causes conflict and pain. There are a lot of ways you can encourage a diversity of opinions and views in your organization; sometimes vigorous debate between these viewpoints is important, but it should never lead to someone feeling less-than. A good way of promoting this type of thinking is hiring a diversity and inclusion speaker to give a talk at your next event; they’ll give stories about their own experiences with diversity, and how it helped them grow into the success story they are today.