I’ve been part of several conversations on diversity lately; we are finally getting past the box-checking phase, and on to something more interesting and beneficial.
Phase 1 is assembly – bringing together diverse components.
Phase 2 is inclusion – putting those components together in the existing context.
Phase 3 is belonging – bringing out all of the best elements by adapting the context.
Some of us have been exposed to not-so-inspiring HR versions of diversity for a long time, and many organizations are stuck at phase 1 (or phase 0) so it might help to think of the topic in different terms. A kitchen pantry, maybe, or a garden. Just filling the cupboard with new spices doesn’t do much, and just adding new ingredients to an old dish usually is not so great either. But if you take the time to learn about the new ingredients, and think about how your old recipes might adapt, or where you might even try some new recipes… well, that’s where the magic happens.
The only challenge is that willingness and ability to adapt old practices, which sounds easy but can really be a doozy. For example, yesterday a friend mentioned the exclusive setting of the Oxford campus, where you can’t walk on the grass and can’t even access the gardens without a special key. It’s beautiful and traditional and if you have a key you do feel a little bit special. But if we want the benefits of real belonging, the lawn might get stepped on, and the keys might have to go.
Sure, letting go can be hard. But look what we gain in return. The whole world opens up. And you know, the grass will probably still look pretty good even if we’re playing whiffleball on it.
Dear Honeybees, what are our own precious protected lawns? Let’s try to take down the ropes, even if we have to start with one little corner of the field. Let’s kick off our shoes, and stroll with some friends today.