Wednesday, January 6, 2010
My first reaction to the term diversity, is not a positive one. Having spent years in the corporate world I soon learned that diversity had become an HR buzz word to ensure that every department had their token people of color or different ethnicity and that made the whole organization look good and abide by the organizational norms and numbers. Diversity for me always meant creating an environment for different thinking and ways of being to ensure that we were not trapped by our own short sightedness. So, it didn’t matter where this diversity came from. It was a way to ensure that we weren’t too comfortable, that we were stretching ourselves and expanding.
True diversity defies hierarchy. In fact, if we are truly interested in diversity, we have to throw out the whole concept of order. Only then, can we embrace all the potential offerings of diversity. Only when we give up the idea of what’s right, fair, or acceptable can we see the endless possibilities that true diversity gifts us with. Diversity is about inclusion of everything and everyone. Indeed, diversity may create a little chaos and some organizations cannot handle that. In the age of streamlining, cost cutting, and standardizing, diversity is choked off or becomes even more of a superficial token because no one wants to rock the boat.
I love the concept of true diversity because it is about integration, integrating the dark and the light, the wrong and the right, etc. I like to start with the only place I can start with, me. How diverse am I in my own thinking? How open am I to different ideas, even things that seem crazy? How easily do I dismiss ideas that defy the norm or are considered dark/negative? I might decide after answering these questions that I am open and pretty diverse in my own thoughts, beliefs, etc. in the privacy of my own mind. The next step is, how do I voice this diversity out there, or do I? Am I always trying to be the harmonizer, the positive thinker, the motivator? Do I dare to be negative? Where are the boundaries I dare not cross, or are there any? Now, I am not suggesting anarchy or being negative just to be difficult. I am however, asking if I have the courage to stand out. If you find yourself rationalizing it by thinking that it depends on the circumstance and what is at stake, then you are still bound by conditions. My question is precisely about that, are we willing to experience the expression of diversity regardless of the risks involved. And as long as we are bound by our need for security, our organizations will reflect the same.
As a painter, I used to try to remember my art teacher’s words and instructions. I remember he even told us to not buy black paint, because we’ll never need it. Mind you he was teaching us how to paint flowers and pretty nature scenes, and I had years of Catholic School education and was a good girl who followed instructions and never bent the rules. Years later, I bought the black paint. I rarely used it, because I was told that I wouldn’t need it. One day, I went a little crazy and opened the tube of black paint. I felt the possibilities of where my painting could go. It changed everything. I became more daring in my art. I decided to break all the so-called rules of how you mix colors, etc. I did my own thing and embraced the diversity that had entered my painting. I am still in awe of what I might create, because it could be anything. I don’t have a style or a method. I am open to expand, to let the art do its thing.
Now, I sit here pondering if I could only apply this way of being to all other parts of my life in every moment of every day, what would that be like? I have a hunch it would be an endless and expanding evolution of rich and intense experiences. But am I ready for that?