CollaborationDiversity_Ven_Diagram“It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.” Dee W. Hock, founder of Visa

Diversity is what brings about the richness of life. As people we are relational beings.  When people relate to one another they have an opportunity to learn about themselves, others, and their relationships.  The capacity we can hold diverse views deepens our learning.

Johari WindowThe Johari Window is a model of self-discovery.  Our blind spots, things about ourselves known to others but unknown to ourselves, are in quadrant two. By engaging diversity and suspending judgment we explore our blind spots.  By doing so we expand our knowledge of ourselves.

In our relationships with others the exploration of blind spots happens all the time.  The extreme is referred to as “putting your foot in your mouth.”  Rest assured not all exploration into quadrant two involves this extreme. Blind spots are teased out as we speak about our differences. Yvonne Agazarian’s says within apparent differences, similarities will emerge and vice versa. (Weisbord, 2007) Therefore by discussing our differences we strengthen connections and similarities. Conversely, when we project judgment on “the other” we deny our similarities and expound our differences.

When organizations tend to diversity as a discussion of similarities and differences they build capacity and flexibility.  This is especially useful when obstacles mar the path toward a goal.  Early in gatherings Peter Block (2008) suggests a maximum mix to open questions and raise doubt.  Then once we are familiar with the opportunities and threats use affinity groupings for planning actions.

In closing, we are social creatures, dependent on one another. Each time we bring our unique gifts we often paradoxically showcase our own diversity and union. We bring our gifts at risk of both separating and uniting us.  Diversity brings a richness to communities they can rely on in times of change.

This article is part of a larger series entitled The Anatomy of Collaboration

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