Creating a Cultural Container for Diversity

Malcom Forbes of the Forbes magazine said that; “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”

It is interesting to note that how human beings impact each others thought processes and how easy it would be for us to start thinking on same lines and exclude anything new from our system. We look for what is similar in us and continue to look at only that. Excluding any differences that might be difficult for us to express or accept. The Human psyche develops its immunity to new things to remain in its comfort zone and to avoid the challenge of growth. This is contradictory to the growth the human’s seek through diversity of experiences and ideas. Very interesting and twisted…

Our mind is a tricky place and it plays tricks with us, which cannot be caught until we come to a space of authentic self-introspection. Human beings in stressful situations would only focus on what is important for their survival and ‘Diversity and inclusion‘ does not figure in survival situations. Many organisations have experienced a lot of frustration trying to build a diverse and inclusive culture without much success. However, I believe that if we hold the intention of growth in an organisation, diversity will happen and visa-versa, growth and diversity cannot be mutually exclusive. Diversity and growth go hand in hand. They mimic biodiversity and growth in nature. (Being a student of genetics comes handy in Organisational Development here. It is scientifically proven that in breeding causes deterioration of the gene, however if new gene pool is introduced it leads to better evolution and health). Having said that, I also understand that it is a common knowledge and intellectually we all, ‘Get this scientific theory’, However some how our psychological insecurities related to survival of the ‘Gene’ itself, do not allow us to evolve. The feeling of the insecurity is real and visceral, it can be seen in families, communities and across cultures. The same insecurities are working in our organisations. These survival instincts don’t allow us to step out of our comfort zones and be open to other ideas and cultures, without our judgemental armours. We feel it is our duty to protect what we are born into or what we believe. We forget that the evolutionary processes in nature are organic and without interference from our psyche, the evolutionary process will only enrich our beliefs. I wish our organisations were based on biomimicry. The fear of unknown and losing relevance of our ‘Gene’, our ‘Identity’ grips and paralyses us and keeps us away from our own growth.

Organisations world over need to understand the ‘Human Condition‘ before they can implement any cultural change. The process is very simple like sowing the right seed in the right season and right conditions. Most organisations miss out on teaching moments, leadership should be trained on the skills of ‘Moment of Truth‘. When they see something which is not inclusive to the agenda of diversity, it has to be, called out, named and discussed, it should not be swept under the carpet. The skill of facilitating such conversations is missing in most leaders. Most of these are unpleasant and difficult conversations which do not get their due, for lack of facilitation skills in leadership. Organisations get upset and reactive over their inability to institute a culture of diversity in situations which show nepotism, cultural or gender intolerance, etc. What the organisations need to learn and understand is that these very ‘upset‘ situations are the learning edges and ‘setup‘ for the organisation’s growth. Using these situations to facilitate transparency and inclusivity is a skill that needs to be brought into the organisations. The organisations need to create communities to open discussions on inclusivity and introspection into the system to build and support cultural growth.

The container is really held by the ‘Leader’ and if the leader is endowed with a position to build this diversity, she must understand ‘Self’ and her ‘Parts’. She must understand her own diversity inside her psyche and be Self-aware to ‘See’ it outside. The Leadership of an inclusive-diverse culture must have following qualities;

  • Understand history, food, folktales and myths that build the human psyche, and thus the micro and macrocosm of the organisation
  • Understand impact of Power, Privilege, Rank, Race and Culture and should have the ability to facilitate its understanding
  • Listener of stories and personal story teller
  • Vulnerable and authentic during a face-off
  • Sucker for feedback
  • Open to self-introspection work

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