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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susan Doering

I am open - Why diversity and inclusion are not merely nice-to-haves

It is always fascinating how the parts of one’s life suddenly click together as in a jigsaw puzzle. In my yoga practice this morning we were encouraged to take as our motto “I am open”; and I have already mentioned in this blog how yoga is the synergy of body and mind. How can we be open?

I am currently working with the Europe managers of a global manufacturing company on their diversity and inclusion foundation, and of course the first thing we did was examine why this is important. It was very clear to them that in order to be the market leader, the first in the race for talent and be able to harvest the best innovative ideas and engagement from all their employees, they needed to mine and nurture relevant inputs from all sources. Diversity and inclusion can’t just be add-ons, they have to be the veins running through the whole organisational body.

Matthew Syed makes a compelling case for diversity and inclusion in his can’t-put-it-down book Rebel Ideas. In examples ranging from the CIA (the uncomprehending response to Bin Laden which led to 9/11) to extreme mountaineering (the Everest disaster in 1996), from the easy co-operation inherent to Silicon Valley tech start-ups to medical treatment (one diet does not fit all), he makes clear that we miss innumerable opportunities and make devastating (sometimes life-threatening) mistakes when we do not listen to or include diverse viewpoints. The “collective brain” will always be better than the individual brain in complex and changing situations; even if the individual is extremely intelligent, the diverse group’s knowledge will surpass the individual’s.

At the same time, diversity needs to be harnessed to a common goal.

Four approaches will help us to be open:

1. An open mindset. I am prepared to be open, even though this may be new and a little uncomfortable

2. A questioning attitude. I will ask questions when I don’t understand, rather than shutting off; and I will also question my own assumptions

3. Being curious. I am interested in new ideas and people different from me – they can inspire me

4. Being thoughtful. I reflect on the new things I learn and adapt my way of being and doing accordingly

These approaches will help you know and understand more, will help you towards solutions to complex problems and will change the way you look at the world – for the better. We all run the risk of living in echo chambers, only hearing the echoes of our own thoughts, but without new ideas we can make no progress.

For the managers in my training, their next step is to see how they can use the 4 approaches to benefit their teams and the company as a whole.

Where will the next great idea come from? Perhaps from a young person in your team, perhaps from a source completely outside your area of work (synergies!). James Watt had the idea for a steam-run engine by watching the lids of the pots on his mother’s stove.

How will you gather and harness the inputs?

I would love to hear your ideas!

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