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!