There’s something about the poet Benjamin Zephaniah that intrigues me. He has an openness and honesty that allows him to describe in the utmost simplicity what he sees as going on under the surface. I imagine that his daily life is probably more removed from mine than almost anyone’s could be. And yet I believe that it is the diversity between us that enriches my life and even possibly his, if he ever were to know me.
Diversity is not just about how many ethnic employees you have in your head office or how many women you have in your boardroom, or whether your marketing campaigns are in line with local cultures and practices. Of course it means all these things but most importantly for me diversity is about differing approaches towards thought and vision and belief and understanding.
Seeing ourselves and the challenges that confront us from differing perspectives, enriches us in many ways. Five men of a similar age, from the same club, facing the same dilemma, in a single group, are likely to quickly merge their ideas into one way of seeing the solution; whereas a diverse group of people will challenge the thought processes and provide many more opportunities for moving forward.
Diversity is being open to listen to the voice of the poet; to open one’s mind to a new and challenging point of view, especially when it comes from someone whose gender, race or cultural background is very different from one’s own. And herein lies the word ‘tolerance’. Tolerance is the first step to listening. From listening we gain understanding and eventually respect, and respect in my eyes is the most basic element for creative dialogue and discovery.
Thus: diversity and tolerance, in my opinion, are two sides of the same coin and are the most important aspects for a creative and growing culture, be it at work or at home. As we move ever closer to a fully connected world, we need to embrace them as important aspects of our daily enriched lives.
Have a good week,