The shocking thing about diversity is that it doesn’t work without some level of self-awareness. Simply because you fill a room with a bunch of different people doesn’t mean they’re going to get along and create the next iPhone—or new “it” thing— bringing your company millions (billions even) in new revenue.
No. That’s probably not going to happen without some level of self-awareness, a shared goal, and a willingness to understand different people within a diverse workforce.
First, a shared goal is unifying in a time of divisiveness. People need to unite around a shared goal or vision for the future to effectively work together in the present.
And second, self-awareness is critical because until you know your own biases, stereotypes, and prejudices, and you have a concrete understanding of your own values, beliefs, and cultural experiences, you can’t understand someone else.
Finally, once you do the work, it takes to reach a level of self-awareness you have to cultivate a willingness to understand and work within a diverse workforce of different groups of people.
If You Can’t Understand Other People, You Can’t Work Effectively With Them.
If you can’t work effectively with different people, innovation and revenue (even continued employment) are not guaranteed or very likely
So after self-awareness, understanding other groups is the second major key to making diversity successful.
Our values, beliefs, and cultural experiences not only shape who we are as individuals but also how we see and conceive the world and everyone around us. In a way, our beliefs, values, and experiences make up our prescription, our glasses, –if you will– adjusted to help us view and experience the world.
And until we interact with someone who is unlike us and start our path toward self-awareness, we may never know we’re even wearing those glasses. We simply accept the world we see as reality and assume it’s the same for everyone else.
Until We Realize The World Is Not The Same For Everyone Else.
Self-awareness teaches us that while we have these unique prescription glasses, other people don’t. Our neighbor, colleague, friend, and that guy at the bar don’t have the same prescription.
Unfortunately, we typically don’t realize our prescription glasses (or our worldview) until we experience conflict or an awkward tension with someone else.
How To Understand People Who Are Different
Once we experience this conflict or awkward tension, many of us assume it’s too late for understanding.
But on the contrary, these moments are the perfect time to create understanding and collaboration with other people.
Our worldviews (or unique prescription glasses) can get glued to our faces to such an extent we don’t interact with people who are unlike ourselves. It’s just easier to work with people who “get” us.
If we’ve done the self-awareness work, it’s during these awkward interactions of tension or outright conflict that we’re able to:
- Notice our glasses (notice your worldview) and choose to ignore them.
- Hear the point of view of another person, while noticing and respecting their glasses
- Offer our own perspective without necessarily believing that it is the “right” way or the “only” way to view the conflict or tension.
- Create an opportunity to find a third solution, one that builds on the strengths of your perspective and the other person’s perspective.
This is how workplace diversity leads to innovation. While diversity is responsible for innovative expressions of thought, self-awareness and the ability to view our worldviews and respect the worldviews of different people is the engine that keeps a diverse workplace humming toward innovation and revenue generation.
Learning to work with different people is a lesson that exists at the intersection of self-awareness, compassion, and respect. We cannot and will not succeed in diverse workforces until we become conscious of our own biases, prejudices, and perceptions and learn to take off our prescription glasses, see the world from different perspectives and co-create new realities and innovations inside, using new glasses.