Embrace The Tension: The Unilateral Diversity Tension Trap

tumblr_lphg0w8Hfk1qfg9zgo1_1280We are living in a strange era, yet I say that and ponder this: Did George Washington feel the same? Did George C. Marshall think his era was one of rapid change? It seems all throughout history we have lived in times of crisis, complexity, and confusion (C3). What has changed today is the speed at which this C3 pulls on each of us. We are simply moving faster than we ever have before.

Somebody Isn’t Thinking

This C3 reveals itself in bizarre ways in the workplace. Many leaders choose to ignore it in an attempt to maintain the status quo which is surly impossible given the rate of change. The people we work with want to see leaders take action, but they rely on us to make smart decisions. Smart decisions demand input, yet none of us are as smart as all of us. Most leaders seek input from the people we know best, but we need to destroy that mold—now. These same influencers lead us to gather ideas only from those who share our viewpoints. General George Patton once said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” I would offer if we are all thinking the same, we are trapped in unilateral thinking—or in other words—we are all adopting the same point of view. In today’s environment this destroys innovation, slows the organization down, and can result in disaster.

Rebels, Mavericks, and Rouge Thinkers

To bust out of unilateral thinking, we must ensure the people we work with feel free and trust leadership to hear their ideas. People must be empowered to voice their opinions and ideas that are indeed contrary to the prevailing thoughts in the organization. As leaders we have to go out of our way to over-communicate and seek alternative approaches to problems from the rebels, the mavericks, and the rouge thinkers.

These maverick may be hard to find, and it will force us to engage with folks we don’t know well. We will have to actively seek those that think differently. Dare I use the diversity word. Diversity has become a buzzword in the circles I travel, but it is indeed one of the strongest assets in any organization. Different ideas, methods, competencies, experiences, and thought processes are huge advantages when it comes to collaboration and creative thinking.

The Tension

We also have to be clear. These differences can also cause extreme stress and strain on an organization as well. Some leaders seek to avoid tension—tension is hard to deal with. It is painful and can cause many evenings of lost sleep, but we can not shun the tension. We have to pull on it, revel in it—we can’t try and minimize it. We have to use it as a force for creativity. The key is to over-communicate and prepare those around us to embrace and understand differences without pre-judging differences. Leaders are responsible for nurturing an eco-system where individual ideas are of the highest value and where those ideas can be fostered and grown into amazing initiatives.

In the end, leaders must encourage “out-of-the-box” ideas generated from a diverse workforce and in turn highlight, recognize, and reward ideas and success resulting from rouges and diverse individuals. Embrace the tension, don’t mitigate it. Revel in it—our teams will amaze with their innovation.

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