Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the start of Freebridge Housing Associations Annual Business Planning Day. Freebridge, and their partners, are doing some phenomenal work for the people in West Norfolk – creating communities and building opportunities. To my delight, they are using the Thinking Environment as a way of working together and spent the whole day on the topic of Diversity, which is one of ten of the Thinking Environments components, alongside others of equal importance such as Attention, Ease and Equality.
What I think is often completely overlooked when we think of Diversity is what is beneath the surface. That we are not all just (insert skin colour), (insert nationality), (insert class), (insert physical appearance). These classifications can be hugely misleading and don’t
in anyway encompass WHO we really are, more what. Yes, I’m British/Irish, I’m 30. I’m female. I’m tall. BORING! I like language. I enjoy sport. I read, but not as much as I’d like to. I socialise. I volunteer with a disabled charity. I work for myself. I love the sofa on a Sunday with a film. I eat curries. I live in the city but I love nature. I just bought a kitten (from the RSPCA). Better?
What has also ruined our perspective of the reality that is diversity is that diversity is often blamed for atrocious things – discrimination, ill treatment, even wars and genocide – we’ve begun to ignore it or worse pretend its not real. When it is so potentially….potent.
What we experience as we grow up (in fact from about 4 weeks in the womb!) impacts our brains in a powerful way. Each experience is stored and feeds into our future self – it’s how we make meaning of our world and survive. It creates a uniqueness in all of us that makes us as a planet so diverse – no one the same. Not even twins. There is no homogeneity.
This diversity creates so much potential when brains meet to think together and solve problems. Every time we are presented with a problem, our minds relate back to past experiences, searching for an answer. If we can harness the collective brain power, the experience and knowledge, of a diverse group we can achieve so much more. As the marvellous Nancy Kline so aptly says, “If we can think AS ourselves, we can think FOR ourselves”. The Thinking Environment - listening to one another, asking good questions and hearing from everyone – allows us to take full advantage of this precious commodity. It allows us to save our energy for thinking, not for hiding who we truly are. That’s what Freebridge brought to the table quite literally yesterday by holding all their table discussions in a Thinking Environment through the simple concept of using uninterrupted Rounds. This will undoubtedly yield better thinking. Businesses all over should take heed. How could an organisation of clones ever market its wares to the diversity of our world?
So its our experience which really create our diversity, not what rests on the surface. ‘What’ you are will in many ways dictate your experiences but ‘who’ you are will have a far greater bearing. Who you choose as your friends. How you choose to spend your time. This is what shapes us and what will shape our future, and what should shape our organisations.