What is diversity of thought?
Our life experiences shape our ideas. Each individual gathers perceptions based upon their daily reality. Our culture, background, and unique personalities form how we think. How we think and interpret information influences our decisions in all aspects of life, affecting the trajectory of our choices in our education, religious and spiritual growth or lack thereof, marriage and family planning, and our careers.
Diversity of thought refers to the range of mindsets, thought processes, and perspectives that can be found throughout an area, region, or organization. When researching diversity of thought, some opinions centered on how beneficial, even integral, the concept can be to maximize the potential and productivity of teams. Other opinions felt that the idea of the diversity of thought being promoted within an organization was risky or problematic.
It was fascinating to read many different articles geared toward business hiring, team building, and employee training that focused on all the positive attributes of a work culture that prioritized creating a workplace that valued diversity of thought. The companies that bring people together who think differently from one another can start difficult conversations and create dialogue that stimulates new ideas and drives efficiency.
That’s just the workplace. What about diversity of thought in our community? In the media? In our places of worship? In our schools? Within our homes and families? Should diversity of thought be something we strive for on our city council and school board? Our local and state governments?
Is diversity of thought valued in our country? In the last few years especially, conformity of thought was the expectation. Strong feelings emerged during the pandemic, with many Americans feeling polarized and alienated from their neighbors. Family estrangement became more commonplace due to opposing views regarding masking, vaccination status, quarantine rules, and social distancing. Why were these opposing views held in such contempt?
Ideas that deviated from the commonly accepted train of thought were scorned, quickly dismissed, and even resulted in the societal character assassination of the source.
Fear often prevents people from being open to different ideas or diversity of thought.
Do you shy away from communication that may bring up dissenting views?
There are definitely dissenting opinions regarding the value of diversity of thought.
“The word ‘diversity’ often conjures images of a workplace consisting of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and genders. While those things certainly explain a component of diversity, it’s only part of what diversity includes. Realistically speaking, physical and social aspects only comprise about half of diversity, and the remainder lies in the diversity of thought,” stated Rick Bowers in Training Industry Magazine.
“Diversity of thought is the idea that people in a group don’t need to look different or identify with an underrepresented group in order to bring varying, diverse viewpoints to the table. While this is technically true, it is a risky concept to find comfort in.” (Rebekah Bastian, Forbes, 2019).
“In the course of our work with clients, we often see diversity of thought presented as a counterargument by privileged identity groups against efforts to increase the representation of underrepresented employees across levels at an organization. This can show up as tension around efforts to increase representation in the C-Suite and the governing boards or prioritizing focus on socioeconomic status and political differences in diversity work. In this way, diversity of thought is often used to sidestep real action and avoid accountability around bias, unchecked privilege, and systemic discrimination that has been proven time and again to exist in organizations across all industries,” said Rahimeh Ramezany.
In 2004, Anthony Lising Antonio, a Stanford Graduate School of Education professor, said,” When we hear dissent from someone who is different from us, it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us.”
Do you enjoy talking to people who disagree with you? Is a rousing debate something that invigorates you and challenges your thought processes? Or would you rather have the floor swallow you up and help you disappear when a difficult or sensitive topic is broached?
Can you maintain a friendship with someone with different views regarding issues you feel are important? Do you end working relationships with colleagues based on a different perspective?
There is (and has been for some time) a considerable emphasis in U.S. popular culture right now on the appreciation of diversity. We are often reminded of the DEI efforts of nearly every organization, business, and entity. Daily bombardment from the mainstream media on race relations and identity politics can exhaust and overwhelm the average person attempting to live a meaningful and authentic life.
What does it say about us as a country or community if we do not respect the diversity of thought? What does it say about us individually if we do not value diversity of thought?
Everyone has variation in skin color, size, shape, hairstyle and personal dress. In the United States not everyone has the same ethnic or racial background. We celebrate these differences, and we are taught to appreciate the differences in human sexuality and gender identity. We hear praise for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What about different thought processes? Are you able to see value in a perspective that is in stark contrast to your own?
Are you able to respect people who have ideas that challenge your own beliefs and values? Are you able to be friends with people who think differently than you?
Are you able to collaborate and problem-solve with a coworker who has a different vision? Or do you prefer to work with colleagues who think the same way you do?
Diversity of thought is a fascinating topic to reflect upon and determine your perspective regarding its value in your working and personal relationships.
By Dr. Julie Lohr
Training Industry Magazine “The Importance of Diversity of Thought” Rick Bowers
Forbes “Why We Need to Stop Talking about Diversity of Thought” Rebecca Bastain
Harvard Business Review “How Diversity of Thought can Fit into your DEI Strategy” Ella F. Washington
Diversity Woman Media “Diversity of Thought: What is it and why is gaining so much traction?” Ruchika Tulshyan
The Great Ideological Lie of Diversity Jordan Peterson