Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Diversity

NOTE: I wrote this blog a week before the New Zealand terror attack. As I post it, I am grieving the loss of life and senseless, cold-hearted killing that happened. The importance of understanding the idea of diversity is NOT about saying one group is better than another. Let me be blunt: white supremacy is NOT right nor is it biblical. White people are never better than others of different colors. I could go on, but I will let you read the original blog. Let me know what you think.

 If we don’t have to agree to be unified (see last week’s blog), what is diversity, then? If unity is putting together different parts to make a whole, we need to understand “different” – diversity. What is diversity and is it a good thing?

Here are some definitions[1]:

  • the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness
  • variety; multiformity
  • the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.
  • a point of difference

In the Merriam-Webster[2] dictionary, we find diversity to be:

  • the condition of having or being composed of differing elementsVARIETY

Variety. Difference. There is a lot of variety and difference in this world. However, we must be careful with our definition of diversity. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center says, “Diversity is sometimes used to broadly include any kind of difference, such as difference in personality, skills, working styles, tenure, and thinking. But if diversity includes everything it end up meaning nothing.”[3] (Livermore, 8)

I have heard people refer to “diversity fatigue” where we are just tired of talking about it. Most companies and schools now require “diversity training” which often ends up being a “let’s all love one another and be happy” kind of training. And then there are those who talk about the word “diversity” having been hijacked and ineffective in talking about the hard issues of differences.

And yet, this world is diverse. We do have differing opinions and perspectives. There are different nationalities and ethnicities and religions and cultures. Is that a bad thing?

I would contend that the diversity of this world is a very good thing and we should not fear differences. Wouldn’t life be boring if we all looked the same, dressed the same? Wouldn’t this world be a dull place if the earth had the same climate and geography everywhere? How would we grow in knowledge if we didn’t learn from others who think differently? How can we expand our horizons and thoughts if we don’t rub shoulders with and talk with people who are different from us? Differences, diversity can be a very good thing.woman-3365370_640

If we are going to grow and learn and celebrate diversity, let’s start using the diversity we have for strength. Studies show that homogeneous teams are more innovative than diverse teams if the diverse teams have not been trained to be culturally sensitive, to have what we call “Cultural Intelligence” or “CQ.” However, “when used strategically, diversity is one of the greatest resources for coming up with innovative solutions, which in turn leads to economic benefits.” (Livermore, 2)

To benefit from diversity, then, requires an effort to develop our CQ, our cultural intelligence, to listen and learn from those who have different opinions from us, who think differently from us.

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/diversity?s=t

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diversity

[3] Livermore, D. (2016). Driven by Difference: How great companies fuel innovation through diversity. New York, NY: AMACOM

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