Diversity, or differences, in daily life

I help building diverse, successful businesses. There are many good reasons to why a company should be diverse and inclusive; plainly speaking because it affects the bottom line (positively of course). Simply said:

1, A diverse employee group represents and therefore understands the external world = company produces the products the customers want and need.

2, A diverse environment where people feel included, whether they are gay, have an impairment, green hair or generally have different ideas/background than the others = productive, engaged staff that are loyal and give their best at work.

Many companies get this and work towards it. But what about people in general? Outside work? Do we get it? Do we understand the benefits of diversity, or differences, in our society?

National cultures, corporate cultures, educational cultures, religious cultures, and social levels (the list could be longer) have certain codes and expectations around how we should live our lives. And on top of that, I think many feel a need to “make same”; people should be the same, because it is something we can understand and connect with, and it feels safe. When people do something out of the box, we may feel confused, puzzled or even slightly envious.

For example, at a certain social level in a certain country it is common to take several degrees at university. All of a sudden, someone in that circle takes only one degree and feels good about that. The others don’t understand it, “you should take two, at least” and they feel that this particular person makes a bad decision. And then others may feel slightly envious, because they would have wanted to do the same. Of course they will not say so, they will criticize the person with “only” one degree.

It makes me think; what if everyone wanted to (and could) be scientists? Who would pick up the garbage then? Or if everyone wanted to work at the supermarket, who would invent Iphones and internet? Our diversity of interests, skills, competences, talents, the choices we make, our opinions, this is what make the world go round. Do we appreciate that?

The above was an example of an education expectation, but there are so many expectations from the culture we belong to. The expectation of “sameness” could involve getting married, having children, house, car, income level, charity, contribution in family, even expectations around how to behave according to your gender. What is the worst case scenario result if we give in to all these expectations? We would be the same! (That would be terribly boring) And not only that, people lose energy, creativity and joy if they have to pretend to be someone they are not.

We need diversity, we need differences in daily life, it is such a banal and simple truth, yet I think we need to remind ourselves of it regularly. Curiosity and an open mind are good starting points when meeting people who are “different” (whatever that means to you).

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