“Diversity defines the health and wealth of nations in a new century. Mighty is the mongrel. The hybrid is hip. The impure, the mélange, the adulterated, the blemished, the rough, the black-and-blue, and the mix-and-match – these people are inheriting the earth. Mixing is the new norm. Mixing trumps isolation. It spawns creativity, nourishes the human spirit, spurs economic growth and empowers nations.”
As much as I’d like to, I can’t claim that the above quote belongs to yours truly. No. Its actual source is G. Pascal Zachary’s, The Global Me: New Cosmopolitans and the Competitive Edge.
Initial reactions aside, you have to admit that this one’s a classic thought-provoker. Once I ceased quibbling over Zachary’s intriguing choice of words and began really processing this on a much deeper level, it started to hit home.
And here’s why.
First, it squares with the place where my thinking about diversity has evolved to over the years. Although I’ve used more palatable words (mongrel, adulterated, impure – wow, can’t quite go there, Mr. Zachary!), I’ve said that diversity will continue to show up packaged and acting differently. And the suitcase that diversity brings along will contain a variety of perspectives on issues and approaches to dealing with those issues. Different expectations will tumble out before the unpacking’s done.
Second, the quote validates what the observant eye has been seeing over the years. This new diversity has and will continue to have a bold new bravado, a sassy swagger to it. It’s going to walk upright through the front door, into the meeting, into the board room, into city government, onto the sports field – in fact, everywhere – unapologetically different from what we’re accustomed to. It’s going to pull up a seat next to us as a talented engineer who’s a transsexual, a quiet but powerfully effective introvert, a tattooed yet talented chef, or a working mom who has fine-tuned an unappreciated set of transferable balancing skills into the organization.
It may startle us in the form of a talented ball of fire who doesn’t respond well to micromanagement, or that dad who works most effectively with a Smartphone on the sidelines during his daughter’s soccer game. It may knock on – strike that, kick in – the front door in other indistinguishable forms.
Now let’s not get too comfortable with reassuring thoughts that this new diversity is on the way and may get here someday when we’re settled into retirement, or pushing daisies in a graveyard. Yes, part of it is hurtling toward us as the new workforce, the new customer, the new immigrant. Yet the other part is right here right down the hallway, in the next cubicle, in the adjacent production line, in the customers we have and in the ones we’re after.
Third, this new diversity means that we’re probably in for a ride – a bumpy one at that. Our comfortable little niches, our time-honored notions about what’s right and wrong, normal and abnormal, will get nipped at around the edges.
Suddenly all bets will be off. Our beliefs will be in for the ride of their lives. And guess what? Maybe challenges to our comfort zones aren’t all bad. Maybe we need a zinger from time to time. Perhaps we need a periodic wake-up call, a much-needed potent dose of a new reality, a swift kick in the rear end.
So in the end, the question is how can we continue to work together with all these new diversities – some subtle, some glaring – vying for a seat at the contemporary table in ways that will make the relationships hum along on all cylinders?
The question behind the question for each of us – and the more penetrating one – is do we get on board or get run over by the train. Do we hate or do we heal? The answer to these questions are indeed personal ones. It starts with an understanding that it is our incredible diversity, however it manifests itself, and our effectiveness in mixing well that has us on the brink of greatness.
Who knows, maybe it’s the mighty mongrel who will appear out of nowhere to nudge us over that edge!
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