Exploring Possibilities: Inclusion In Diversity
How many of us have met someone, who reminds us of a person, whom we did not like? I can easily take the liberty of saying that this must have happened with most of us multiple times. This impacts the way we deal with the other person.
In fact, few of us do not interact with that person at all. This poor person, who is new in our lives, has to rebuild lost trust. A trust he never had broken. This is just because of an unconscious bias in our mind.
If we have a brain, we have a bias. As per a research our mind has a capacity to process eleven million bits of data per second. In our ability we consciously process only 40 bits of data per second. Please do the math. Brain manages the rest of the processing unconsciously, with the help of the memory we have got.
Here I will ask my readers to pause, and will tell them about the NBA tagline which says “choose inclusion” and move “towards difference”. Only commonality is the love for the game of basketball.
Our reluctance to inclusion has a social history. Right since our childhood we have learnt that man is a social animal. Nothing wrong with that, but this socialization has taught us to look forward to similarity. Moment a similar chord is hit; it is deemed as safe. Difference is perceived as a potential threat.
Moment we find a person with four or five similarities our brain automatically assigns all our strengths to the person (but not the weakness). So the skill of inclusion is not something we are born with, it has to be learnt and practiced. It is like mathematics. Whether we like it or not we have to solve it.
Initial mathematical problems most of us can solve, but the moment calculus like problems appear, we give up. Similarly, in inclusive leadership, we can solve the problems out of one on one relations, but we give up when it comes with a group versus a group problem, because complexity arises. Math also we cannot solve with mere intention, inclusive leadership cannot also be adopted just by intention. It needs to learn the skill, practice it, and insert it into our daily routine.
Inclusion is particularly required in diverse groups. As per Dr. Steven Jones “diversity is about counting the heads and inclusion is about making each head count.” He says that “if agreement is the currency of inclusion; innovation is a problem”. Trust takes a longer time to build in a diverse group.
In diverse groups chances of refutation is high, so people prepare their arguments vigorously, as they are expected to be challenged. Diversity automatically does not equal high performance. We have to be intentional in connecting to the differences. In a simpler way we should connect through our similarities, deepen our relationships and explore, accept and appreciate differences.
Many of us are in the habit of taking out the 3D glasses, while we watch the 3D movie. Moment we do this picture becomes blurred as we miss upon the third dimension. Let us understand this with an example. When we are a part of a group which is in majority, our group’s way of doing things becomes the system, gets institutionalized, normalized and becomes the culture. For instance, most of the humans in the world are heterosexuals.
We are in the huge majority. Once a non-heterosexual patient complained and confessed to a psychologist that heterosexuals are very boisterous about themselves. Psychologist got perplexed, and asked the reason for the opinion. Patient said whenever you share pictures of your happy times with your partners, your happy family, your children from your partners, and so on, you boast about it.
Psychologist said, well that’s pretty normal. Patient said, if we homosexuals also share our pictures with our partners and our family, will you still say that it's quite normal. Idiosyncrasies of the group in majority becomes invisible and those of not in majority are highly visible.
Inclusive leaders should create a structure and ambience, where they lower the risk of disagreements. Disagreement should be welcomed and appreciated.
One can create such ambience by asking powerful questions like, can you please help me to understand, what drives you to a different conclusion? Or before finalizing the plan for the project if we can utilize the two by two tool to inclusion. Which asks stakeholders to give two reasons, why people should agree and two reasons why people should disagree with the proposed plan.
Best formula for the same is as mentioned above, connect through our commonalities and deepen the relationships so that we can explore, accept and appreciate the differences. An intense participation by diverse teams/members will definitely present new perspectives and help all to explore possibilities....
(The author is a Certified Designed Thinking Master practitioner and Clifton Certified Strength Finder Coach, Corporate Trainer and a Leadership coach. He is based in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India.)