"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color." --Maya Angelou
Diversity is something of a buzz word today. Most often it refers to a racial and ethnic mix, but it can also be applied to any number of other categories. Diversity recognizes the reality that society itself, as Angelou noted, is a tapestry. Although there may be similarities, no two people are exactly alike, not even identical twins. We are part of a rich and variegated society.
Perhaps the greatest gift that diversity provides is the opportunity to learn from others and to create a stronger society, organization, church, or product by incorporating the unique experiences and abilities that each person brings to the table.
We make efforts to create diversity by reaching out to individuals who are unlike us, but inherent in any group is a thread of diversity. Diversity means that people approach things differently.
Although the quote, “Where is everyone is thinking alike, somebody is not thinking” is attributed to George S. Patton, the idea has been around for a long time. Just having a group of people working on a project doesn’t mean that everyone’s abilities are being tapped. “Groupthink” can lead to a lock step approach that either follows the leader without question or brings discussion to the lowest common denominator.
Tapping into diversity and the rich knowledge base in a group is a significant skill for a leader. It requires the ability to put one’s own assumptions on hold, listen to others, ask good questions, and value other’s insights. When it works well, the result can be phenomenal.