While few deny that diversity’s a noble concept, in reality, we tend to fit more into research that claims people select what most looks like them, imitate what’s more familiar, and prefer what they’ve already experienced.
Have you noticed how we pass over what differs, judge harshly what we lack courage to try, and reject approaches that seem less familiar?
In one sense, you can blame diversity’s lack on the brain. Typically people lean more on their brain’s basal ganglia – that mental equipment that defaults us daily into a comfortable stance within ruts and routines.
If we lack vision for diversity’s life-changing offerings, we block resources and shrink opportunities for all. No secret for instance, that women and men leaders differ, and research now shows that’s the case even at rest. My question is: How can we capitalize on brainpower differences between men and women to raise the leadership IQ of our sinking world? Did you know that while many boardrooms include men only – new research proves that teams with more women have higher IQ?
To risk vastly new directions, as passionate innovators do on a wild new venture to diversify project manager, is to rely on the brain’s less comfortable working memory. This neural pathway to novelty is fueled by brain chemicals such as dopamine, which supports risk and leads people to strikingly novel approaches.
Rarely does diversity – as we use it though– help us fly new machines that differ in size, or rock. As we run to familiar shapes, textures and aromas – we tend to settle for familiar flights viewed as more reliable. Have you been there?
Organizational Frames for Diversity
Ask people sent to diversity training, and you see how often they come away with resentment. Some leave mandated-workshops with even more determination for one way, one culture, or one gender in their winner’s circle. Others mumble epitaphs about the unfairness of affirmative action pushed at workshops – and they’re likely right. It seems framed to cheapen the wonder of innovative mindsets. Its rules and ruts tend to miss the finer approaches to rich integration of human minds I’ve come to crave for the wealth in variation.
McKinsey polls claim that workshops rarely work since people don’t learn to apply new approaches to old problems. It makes sense, then that little changes back at work. Problems come too from the flawed notion of “training,” as we’ve shaped it.
Who wouldn’t run from the deficit model we’ve made of diversity in business, for example? How many time have you seen differences mentioned in ways that supposedly robbed benefits from those already there and entitled to be there as they see it? See what happens. Label diversity or affirmative action for that matter, as deficit model, and you preclude any sense of celebration from added brilliance to a group.
Then there’s the problem that training itself tosses into the mix. If you believe you train dolphins or dogs, you likely also believe human IQ’s respond better to more. Alternatives are endless when you get past the speedbumps to smoother highways. How about a mutual mindguiding approach, where integration defines people who explore diverse edges together for mutual benefits, lessons and inventions?
Rather than diversity training I propose that people develop a new eye for dynamite brainpower added when we harness that unique mix of talents that leads innovation. When my MBA leadership class leads innovative projects – entire communities from a huge sector of life – buzz with the passion of discovery. Would we not mine new gems across ethnicity, gender and age, mixed in at every level, if we exchange old notions of diversity for an innovative direction led by mixed minds?
Windows into Mixed Mindsets
A lifetime of travel to work with leaders in the High Arctic, Mexico, Europe, South America, Ireland, China, Canada, Caribbean and the United States, showed brilliant colors in mixed mindsets I could not have succeeded without. To be honest, diversity pales in contrast.
Perhaps it comes down to the fact that to act deliberately on what one learns literally changes the brain and alters the culture based on our actions. For a richer culture where differences become assets, let’s shift to escalate the wonder of richer talents such as multiple intelligences into wealthy benefits at work. .
Let’s shatter myths that led to training for ordinary routines people resent, and instead let’s risk engaging the brain’s plasticity for a nobler vision that fits shared talents. When we reach higher than conventional training fit only for the flawed notion of fixed IQ’s, we’ll begin to develop problem solving skills at work, with the brain in mind.
To break from diversity training is to open to more two footed questions that replace the noise and clamor of most meetings at work. In silent spaces where curiosity reigns let’s create talent in interactive circles. Facilitate rather than train, and watch leaders learn, while learners also teach at times.
Training for diversity may lead to ruts and boredom, but to expand mental capacity across differences, is to redesign the human brain to become the person you’d like others to see in you. Let’s abandon the foothills of ineffective training, in favor of extravagant castles where discoveries last for a lifetime and cross continents. Have you seen it happen?
Not surprisingly, integrative groups that blend talents also increase their wins, because brains comes equipped with mirror neurons so that people mimic talents in the blend.
In spite of congressional leaders who some say have been bought to cling to one side of issues only, tides are turning for top innovative leaders today. We’ve witnessed more and more innovative leaders, who take advantage of unique mental tools such as mirror neurons, to run with various winning sprinters. Leaders who dare to risk on the flip side of familiar, capitalize more on neuro discoveries, wield rejuvenation remedies that transform tired traditions into blended benefits.
Run from One Routine
Regardless of your position in an organization, you lead risks for innovation across differences, by simply stepping out boldly with others. Slap people on the back for original ideas that solve workplace problems, and you have begun to value mixed mindsets. It’s quite scary at first, so you’ll want to act before fear tosses cortisol into the mix, and stops spigots for courage needed to step past comfort zones. It’s best to start small, and engage one worker to help with a project.
Serotonin, the brain chemical that stirs shared well being, and collaborative success is passed from team member to team member whenever we engage multiple intelligences to partner for inventions that pony up new shots at success. Simply start by using more of your own and other’s strengths.
Why not, identify one small area that could use improvement where you work. Fuel your own brain with a shot of dopamine, by proposing a novel idea. Better still – why not ask a less known colleague for suggestions.
Then run with a few winners from various departments – in the opposite direction of busted or boring routines. With a little help from talented peers, brainpowered tools, you’ve never before tried – will equip you to lead novel designs across bridges and over silos you’ve never before transcended. Now that’s the deeper value of mixed mindsets.
What do you think?