What is the real importance of diversity?

Posted: August 31, 2016 in Powerful Ideas
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Diversity is important, but not necessarily for the reasons that are commonly put forward. Yes, it’s important to have a variety of inputs and perspectives so we can maximize our performance and creativity. It’s also critical that organizations be representative of their respective clienteles or constituencies.

More fundamental, however, is the fact that there are a multitude of personalities, preferences, talents, interests, and attitudes. There is simply no “one size fits all” solution to any needs or wants. This has organizational implications but it also has societal ones as well.

If you try to impose a single or limited number of ways of doing things or of fulfilling needs, you will quickly run into the fact that most people don’t think in the same way or necessarily want the same things. The simple example of musical tastes illustrates this observation. Some people like classical music, others, jazz, rock, blues, folk, country, or any other number of styles and idioms. There’s no accounting for taste. One person’s melody is another’s cacophony. We can’t say “this is real music,” while what young people listen to is “just noise.”

We can go even further when we look at other more impactful activities and preferences. I find mixed martial arts in a cage to be quite barbaric. The image of a brute pounding someone underneath him (or her) comes readily to mind. But then, no one has forced any of the competitors into the ring, at least as far as I know. The same goes for someone who willingly gets into boxing, wrestling or other fighting sports. And what about someone who takes up mountain climbing or sky-diving, or who wants to practice a dangerous occupation or who enjoys work that is normally considered unpleasant. I couldn’t imagine myself being a health care professional, for instance.

This is where freedom comes into play. We need freedom—which I define as a “live and let live” attitude—because there are simply too many diverse preferences, talents, and proclivities. What happens between consenting adults is their business, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, no matter what bystanders and other non-interested parties say or think.

If we’re all going to get along and continue to build and develop some kind of community and society, then we simply have to have outlets and possibilities for ALL people. This is why personal freedom and preference should trump everything else. And also why diversity isn’t just about performance and representiveness.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction, forwarding and quotes permitted with proper attribution.

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