Diversity of thought

Je m’accuse. I’m such a bad blogger. I haven’t been focusing much lately, but given the recent events around #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve been doing some thinking. A lot has been said about diversity and inclusion—whether for black lives, females, LGBTQ+, or some other class—, but the issue is more complex and dimensional than a problem with intersectionality.

There is something to be said for experiential diversity, and the benefits of virtual cross-pollination may have some advantages, but much of this is superficial diversity-washing, enough to claim a public relations participation award.

I keep Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex close to the top of my mind much of the time, but this is more than just about feminism. It’s about otherism—the otherness that creates outgroups.

In Beauvoir’s parlance, there are men and there are not-men—others. This is similar to Baudrillard’s dog/not-dog distinction but with more intention, so we arrive at an orthodox/not-orthodox pairing.

Taking workplace diversity as a frame, that they accept blacks, or women, or disabled, or some other identified class is superficial because the common thread is an acceptance of the prevailing meta-narratives, not only of Capitalism, Democracy, meritocracy, authority structures, and the like. As long as you comply with this mindset, sex and gender, the colour of one’s skin, or disability is cosmetic.

To some extent, there will be some diversity of thought. There will be some cultural perspectives, some generational perspectives, and some gender perspectives, but all of these are aligned to the overarching narrative.

In the world—in the United States anyway—, it’s OK to be black or Hispanic as long as you act ‘white’ or ‘American’. Speak with a neutral accent. Listen to mainstream pop. Don’t wear culturally identifiable clothing. This will ensure acceptance. In a way, this is a faux pas of Donald Trump. He comes across as vulgar to those who hold this perspective.

The diversity that’s missing is one that would do things differently. When a woman ascends to a CEO position, she has done so by more or less mimicking the path a man would probably have taken, making similar decisions. Ditto for a black. Double ditto for a black woman.

People outside of this narrow path will not ascend. I’ll ignore the question of whether this is even a worthwhile aim, A woman who takes this path may have to break through a glass ceiling, but for those of us with a more diverse mindset, the ceiling is stainless steel—a meter thick.

But this is for more than CEOs. I am a self-aware eccentric, and although I colour within the lines my thought is typically outside of accepted boundaries. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the right people in the right environments to capitalise rather than be hampered by this difference. I’ve been lucky enough to operate with relative autonomy because over the years I’ve generally met or exceeded expectations on my own path.

During a review—or at least a conversation—about a decade ago, a manager told me that he had no idea how I operated but that he didn’t want to interfere for fear of breaking the goose laying the golden eggs. I know this was difficult for him to do and to admit because he is a very structured thinker and felt compelled to create repeatable structures (despite ignoring the structure when it came to him—and, thankfully, me).

This same person—whom I admire despite our having different worldviews—also noted that I operate as a director or orchestrator rather than a typical leader. I feel this is spot on. Even as early as high school, I articulated that I did not consider myself to be either a leader or a follower. I was a self-professed adviser, so it’s no surprise that I find myself in consulting and advisory roles. I realise that in the United States, the world is constructed to be more diametrically than it would otherwise need to be, so I end up being a veritable unicorn in most settings.

As those who know me, my first career was in the entertainment field, where diversity is more part of the rule than the exception—though there are still many normies there, too. My ex-wife asked me countless time why I left the music industry, or didn’t stick to academics or activism, each with their own level of interest to me.

The problem is that this diverse perspective is not something a resume can convey very well as there needs to be a great deal of trust, which is not typically in place for new hires, so many, let’s say, organic and creative thinkers, get left out of the equation to the detriment of cultural diversity.