Humans are subject to our natural tendencies. We often operate on autopilot. We don’t think about what drives our thinking or influences our opinions. We just go with the unexamined flow. We carry unconscious biases. We operate on learned prejudices. We hold storage banks of stereotypes, and we find it unnatural to appreciate differences.
The same sort of dismissal happens in business. Maybe we assume that the blue-collar maintenance worker won’t know anything about designing and installing elevators. Or maybe we think that a classics professor has nothing to teach the executives at BellSouth. But we’re wrong in both cases. These are real-life examples from companies I’ve worked with. In both instances, the companies saw real results from listening to these outsider perspectives. But the companies would have missed these results if they hadn’t recognized and checked their biases first.
One of the hardest parts of implementing and managing diversity is taking the first step to identify our biases. We don’t always know we have them, so we don’t always know when they’re ruining our judgments. Harvard University’s Implicit Association Tests reveal just how deeply our unconscious biases run. “People don’t always ‘know their minds,’” say the researchers behind the tests. And they’re right – if you take one of those tests, you’d be surprised at how much you don’t know about your own thoughts.
Deliberate DiversityTM can help us overcome the human tendency to languish in our unconsciousness. Simply understanding our human traits can equip us to better manage ourselves. Deliberate Diversity™ challenges us to get past our biases and entertain new perspectives. These perspectives are often less-biased than our own, because they come from outsiders who don’t have the baggage we have. Outsiders can bring fresher insights. They’re not weighed-down by unconscious tradition.
We can carefully make conscious judgments about people and situations when we’re managing our own humanity. We can step back from “our way” of doing things and open ourselves up to people we might normally dismiss. These people can take risks that we’ve closed ourselves off from. That’s how real, results-oriented innovation happens: by following new paths, instead of walking in the same old circles.