Please miss, how can we be more diverse?

A photo of a single melting icebergEarlier this week I was asked for some advice – what do you do when you have a cultural programme or project that works well technically, but which keeps attracting the same ‘kind’ of people. How do you diversify those you reach?

It got me thinking. I reckon it’s a great ambition and yet hard to do properly. To truly embrace those who are ‘different’ we have to be prepared to rip up the rulebook and start again, or we simply widen the funnel minutely and pat ourselves on the back thinking we’ve done enough. Continue reading

What I mean by diversity is delicious and not divergent, and top tips too

A multicoloured quilt with different handshakes sewn on. A woman places her hand onto one of the hand shapes.I thought it was about time I explained what the strapline at the top of my page means: believing diversity is delicious and not divergent.

Basically, I love difference. I think the more different people are from me, the more I have to learn. The more different people are from each other, the more fresh and interesting, the more useful, the more creative the discussions; the more new perspectives, new solutions, new knowledge get thrown into the mix. I think of difference as being good, not as deviating from some ‘norm’. I’ve never sure what the supposed ‘norm’ is anyway.

For me, diversity is not about tick boxes, quotas and statistics; it’s not just about the legal framework of nine protected characteristics as defined by the UK’s Equalities Act. Diversity is bigger, deeper, more.

For me, it is about accepting and working against our inbuilt reaction against difference – we all have this. Difference can make us feel fearful. And we react often with ignorance.

So how can we best embrace difference? Maximise its potential? Often our fear causes us to set up systems and structures that only suit the so-called ‘norm’, yet to benefit most from diversity we need these to be flexible, responsive and individualisable (not sure that’s a real word, but you know what I mean). Think about schools in the UK – are they really designed to get the best out of everyone?

So I promised you some top tips – here are my three:

1.  Recognise your own prejudices – explore them – where have they come from, how can you challenge them?

2. Look at the people around you – your colleagues, your teams, your board, your advisors, your friends – if they are all clones – all just like you – then make some changes, you will achieve more.

3. If someone in the room makes you feel uncomfortable – go there to have your conversation. We have much to learn from our discomfort!

Thanks to Oragon DOT for the image and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

If variety is the spice of life, why do we always do things in the same way?

a series of neon 'loops' on a black background. Although there are many different colours, they are all the same shape and size.I’ve just been on a presentation course. Yes, one of those where they film you, critique your every move, encourage others to give you feedback and leave you with a list of your good points and bad points (I found out I ‘eyebrow flash’ – this is a good thing apparently).

You got your video bits to take home, so I sat on the train and watched it all back. A one-minute presentation, then a five-minute one, a radio interview with ‘Jeremy Vine’ and discussing the papers in a ‘TV studio’. The thing I was most amazed by was how similar I appeared in all my sections – filmed over two days, in a variety of circumstances, I still seemed to be using the same movements, inflections,  – and (sad to say) even the same jokes.

For someone who believes heartily in the value of difference I didn’t seem to exploiting it much!

Do it differently

So, my new resolution is to try to do things more differently. More light and shade, more variety, more contrast, more changes in pace, tone, delivery.

Am off to do some presenting tomorrow – let’s see if I make it different.

(The course was at Ashridge Business School and I can heartily recommend it).

Thanks to kevin dooley for the image and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.