Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drowned in Diversity

What do Billy Talent, MIA, The Liars, Dr. Dog, Superchunk, Ida Maria, Thenewno2 Glasvegas and Calexico have in common with Paul McCarthy and Booker T? You might be saying, “Say what?” All were exciting acts at the 2009 Coachella Art and Music Festival in the Indio desert in California this weekend.

Each year, I take the opportunity to do something I truly enjoy (learning new bands and types of music) and total immersing myself outside people like myself. If you really want to know what the Gen Y’s are up to, hang out with 60,000 of them for the weekend. Listen to the music, learn the lyrics, observe the clothes, read the logos on the shirts and just as importantly, notice what they are not doing. I still remember the reaction of the fans from watching the youngster walking around with the red and white AIG soccer shirt.

It is critical that leaders take overt actions to place themselves outside of their comfort zone for the purpose of learning and expanding their capability. The same concept is true with participating in experiences that expand your knowledge and comfort with diverse people different from yourself.

What do you do to continue to expand your diversity comfort zone?


Pam Wasserman said...

I watch, read and listen to the kids AND the elders. The first group is full of first impressions and that really simplifies things, the second group is full of experience and that really simplifies things. I like to get out of my own way and remember that this too shall pass, and that this exact moment is mine, all mine! I can, and anyone can make a difference. Like you, or me, if one takes a look around and watches, listens and reads.

Klint C. Kendrick, MBA SPHR said...

What a great way to learn while having fun. This sounds a lot like an immersion program, which I understand is a terrific way to retain information we gain.

Marian said...

Good on 'ya--love your atitude

Parry said...

Your attendance at the festival and aknowledging the diverse crowd and their value as input into your thought process bleeds the power of inclusion. Excluding or exclusion shuts out additional opportunities to success for you and your organization.

Adam White said...


Your comment was a breath of fresh air. I believe that one our cultures greatest obstacles we must overcome is bridging the generational gap, especially in manufacturing. Keep up the great work.

I am in the early stages of my career and constantly look for ways to grow personally and professionally. Surrounding myself with people who smarter than me and have more experience is something I try to do every day.


Alex Kersha said...

John, This is a great topic, I'm interested to see what floats to the top.

Personally, one trip to the Big Apple and any one of its all nighter alternative lifestyle clubs and I'm "immersed" enough for the rest of the year.

Seriously though, I think there is a great amount of rationale for the point you're making. How better to understand people than to take part in what they do out of the office? Being in the technical field, we genreally end up with very diverse project teams. Instead of carrying on day after day of doing our own thing, I have one person from the group suggest something that we all go out and do together that's representative of that individual's culture or lifestyle. We do this once every month or so and it ends up being alot of fun while at the same time building a little respect for how everyone lives.

Alex Kersha

Leanne Hoagland-Smith said...

Your take on diversity is so appropriate because it truly is about looking at the differences in all aspects of life. Currently, I am expanding through Twitter because it represents such vast diversity in both knowledge and participants.

Sue Kettay said...

Nice thoughts John


Stan Kirkwood said...

I watch CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC instead of Fox News.

Tracy Brown said...

I'm all for diversity - and agree 100% with your message that it is important for every one of us to get out of our comfort zone. But you deserve extra blessings: I don't know if I could handle 60,000 GenYs for 3 days!!!

After reading your post I'd change your subject line from "Drowning in Diversity" to "Delighting in Diversity" . . . because you put a great challenge out there for all of us as leaders to stretch and grow and look for the positive insights from the diversity that's all around us.

Randah Taher said...

Hi John ..

in addition to observing people from different generation and cultures in what they do rather than what they say they do, enlist their participation and try to create simulation to better empathize and understand people . try:

role playing as your target audience
camera journaling
do collage with them
experience prototype
draw the experience
do "extreme profiles" interviews
have them predict next year's headlines (to see the world from their eyes)
tell their story back to them and ask for feedback
scenario making
ask why? questions response to five consecutive answers (to understanding the underlying reasons for their behavior and attitude.

for me... I take new routes to go to the same place each time, try different foods and visit new people who in their areas (work or home) to expand my understanding of our small world.


Kathryn Helene said...

I like Alex's once a month cultural activity kind of teambuilding, though I encourage it during work hours to respect people's other weekend or evening choices.

John, your comfort zone suggestion is essential. Leaders constantly ask their employees to take on tasks and responsibilities outside their comfort zone (and outside their full plate!), while they remain cocooned in their plush offices and meeting rooms. I say, ride a city bus to work with your employees or brown bag your lunch and eat with them, while encouraging their questions and ideas.

As consultants who work with leaders, we have the most responsibility for constantly testing and expanding the limits of our comfort zone. I'm an INTJ who took a weeklong program in Virginia Satir's work. Some of it felt so new-agey I thought I'd die, but I approached it as open-minded as I could be and I now use several of the techniques weekly, such as "Temperature Reading" for group health. Forget the detective hat and magic wand stuff!

Robert Beecher said...

There are two threads here that are intertwined...diversity for personal growth and diversity for professional/business purposes. The threads necessarily intertwine becasue as leaders, our personal lives and professinal lives are intertwined. But the conscious development of diversity and exploration of diversity experiences have very different purposes in the two threads. Personal growth and exploration are exactly that - personal. The diversity experiences I seek might not be percieved as really diverse by others because the experiences remain alternate expresions of the dominant western European culture, but these provide me with personal growth and are appropriate for me. We need to be much more cautious about why we seek diversity experiences professionally and organizationally. It must be focused around enhancing the organization's core competencies to build and maintain the business. No matter how broad a spectrum of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, if everyone is a Harvard (or any other) PoliSci major, they all have the same indoctrination and mental maps and there is no diversity that is of value to the business. Diversity in business is NOT about feeling good about our selves and each other - it is All about the bottom line and must be understood and managed in that context.


Kathryn Helene said...

I would agree that if anyone in the workplace cannot tolerate diversity on a personal level, then the only level open to him/her is to acknowledge that 1) it's a demographic fact of our society and 2) to not manage it well leads to poor performance, poor employee engagement and sometimes lawsuits.

If you're asserting that ROI is the only reason for managing diversity, I have to respectfully disagree. In an ideal workplace there would be personal tolerance of differences (including the quite subversive differences related to mindset!) and preferably an appreciation of diversity in recognizing that differences can contribute to better decisionmaking and problem-solving (as well as sometimes to tension).

Carlos Blanco said...

I like to travel the world as often as I can. A great way to expand your horizons and perspective is to observe and immerse in the cultural experience of other places.

I also enjoy participating in cultural organization, like our Affinity Groups.

Tom Adkins said...

This is the kind of nugget of truth that everyone should know... but maybe they don't. Or maybe they haven't considered it in a long time.

Not so much work, but I'm thinking that is the kind of conscious choice I need to expose my boys to, to prepare them for the world.

John said...

For what it is worth, it doesn't sound like you are going very far out of you comfort zone here. 8-)

I would have a hard time describing the Hardly Strickly Bluegrass Festival as out of my comfort zone.

Maybe check something you don't like to do?

Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli said...

An quote from Heraclitus from an old philosophy course many years ago has remained in my mind: Character is Man's Fate

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