Earlier in the year, I worked on a project that had me a bit frustrated. This is what I wrote.
Emotionally, I feel like railing, but intellectually I know that would fall upon deaf ears and teach no one anything. Yet, I’m too old to still have these types of exchanges and didn’t suspect that I was signing up for it on this project. In fact, over the last 10 years I’ve been fortunate enough to have removed myself from it entirely. It’s been good.
After having been told yesterday, “No need to waste time in sharing a perspective,” I woke up with it still on my mind. Understand, this wasn’t about banging on the table, carrying a big stick, calling anyone out, or rattling cages; it was SIMPLY sharing a perspective. To make matters worse, this was from a 29 year-old white male employee, with whom I was consulting, who neither had the intellectual curiosity to hear it out, nor the vision to appreciate opinions on what he didn’t understand. Yet, he had a position (literally and figuratively). So in gathering my thoughts, this is the short version of what I came up with to console myself. Hopefully it resonates and can help another person.
“Diversity and Inclusion” is a competitive advantage… NOT an elective, mandate, or charitable thing to do. Diversity of PERSPECTIVE, experience, socio-economic background, culture, upbringing, ethnicity, etc. creates a difference of perception and allows for the status quo to be challenged and for new ideas to emerge.
New ideas are the foundation of innovation. Innovation, in turn, drives creativity and produces an SUA (sustainable unfair advantage) because performance occurs at an elite level through disruption and not conformity. Some will become uncomfortable when faced with things that they don’t understand and will seek control (shutting you down) in order to avoid upsetting their own sense of reality and emotional equanimity (confused & offended). If they are smart and secure, then they seek to learn and understand – where agreement is not requisite.
Conformity kills innovation. Conformity eliminates creativity and produces redundancy disguised as innovation. Lack of conformity is NOT rebelliousness or lack of cooperation. It simply represents a professional view of looking through various lenses. It begs the question: Do you want me to push you and your agenda to become better, or simply to agree because it’s the least disruptive thing to do?
The process of mental callisthenics with both this fella and a younger white woman, who both said things to me that made no sense in their attempts to outthink and rethink my propositions, evoked defensiveness in them – with the potential to paint me as the agitator. They were uncomfortable given their lack of exposure to things outside of “themselves”. Sometimes I want to channel Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) in “A Time To Kill” and say something like,
Just close your eyes, and imagine that I’m white.
Funny, but there should have been no issues but for their lack of cultural competency wrapped in the inability to be in tandem with people unlike them. This is all based in their own ignorance; not maniacal prejudice.
So keep on stepping strong, respectfully, with a soft stick, righteously, and with truth. Some simply cannot handle what’s outside of their knowledge and conscience thinking and may even create narratives to get comfortable again. They don’t like the truth because it requires responsibility, and responsibility requires accountability. They can only function at the level of their own competency and experience – it’s not personal.
Just as civilizations that fail to change or adjust preside over their own demises, so do individuals and organizations. Everyone knows that growth can be painful. But what we really want for folks like those in question here is for them to grow and prosper. I do offer levity in thinking about the words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”) in saying, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
In closing and in consoling myself, it would be wrong not to use any sports analogies: It’s the difference between Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight. They both are masters of the game (Did Bobby teach Mike?), but one is still relevant while the other is not. One gets people, diversity, and change – still pushing forward with the same winning principles; while the other couldn’t adjust or understand why his proven winning principles no longer worked. He wanted it his way or no way – neither would nor could listen.
Peace and God Bless.