Let’s Call “Diversity” a Different Word - “Blending”

A whole industry has been built around diversity.  Is that good or bad? 


Obviously when the Diversity industry was formed inside and outside of recruitment, it was critically needed.  Laws were written to make it illegal to discriminate against the protected classes of race, color, gender, religious beliefs, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy or veteran status.  These laws need to stay in place because old habits are hard to break.  However, isn’t it time we consider evolving to a different word?  Since our world today is one where we focus on collaboration, wouldn’t a better name be “Blending”?


According to Dictionary.com the definition of Diversity is: “the state or quality of being different or varied.”  Therefore the focus tends to be on the silos of difference.  You see the following descriptions of: Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, even Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, and the list goes on.  Unfortunately when such descriptors are used, the focus tends to be on the difference not on the sameness.  If we all live in the United States of America, shouldn’t we all be Americans?  Isn’t it funny that I just described the people of one country?  Possibly we should all be “Earthians”?  Of course, yet to be introduced “aliens” (there’s that descriptor of difference again) may feel they are the best.


It is natural for humans to feel that their cave/family/belief/school/country/planet is the best one.  Sociologists and psychologists can probably address this tendency better than a Human Resource consultant.  It may simply be hardwired in us in order for humans to succeed as a community since our early times as cavemen and cavewomen.  Look at high school and college sports and the passion of the followers of their sports teams.  Look at the concept of nationalism.  Look at the passion of following a specific religion: Hebrew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhism, Atheism, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, and the list of great religions continues.  The followers of each may be very passionate that their religion and set of beliefs are the one and only religion and set of beliefs.  Then we may look at political beliefs:  Democrats, Republicans, Communists, Socialists, Libertarians, etc.  The people who only vote for candidates of their political party generally are not very interested in collaboration.  They may even demonize good people who are members of another party.  Men believe they are smarter and stronger; and women believe they are smarter and stronger.  The young believe they are better (remember “Don’t trust anyone over 30”?).  People who are seasoned believe their experience is more valuable (“What’s wrong with young people today?” – and members of every generation have asked that question).


Therefore when people say “diversity” what happens?  We naturally think “different”.  It is the definition of the word.  If we are trying to build a society where everyone lives and works in harmony, shouldn’t we think “blending?”


Instead of focusing on the differences among us, would it not be better to focus on the sameness?  Instead of driving wedges between us, shouldn’t we blend?


Societies and companies that understand that every human being in their community may develop a unique and important contribution to their community are the societies and companies that evolve into stronger and more competitive societies and businesses.  Those societies and businesses that attempt to only follow the conventions of one school of thought within that community are doomed to fall behind because everyone will think alike.  The United States used to be called a melting pot because waves of immigrants seemed to come from one place at the same time.  And that is continuing.


Obviously we need to do a better job blending than we did even in the 1970’s; and I am guessing that we are doing a better job blending than many countries.


Diversity is not limited to race but that gets most of the attention.  There are companies and even industries that tend to be dominated by people of one religion or another.  There are companies where most of the people are younger or older and seek people who look like them.  Obviously professional sports teams tend to be “staffed” by younger professionals on the field, court or pool.  There is something about age and physical ability.  However, look who coaches them.


When a company is trying to solve a problem and everyone comes from the same background, they all tend to look at the problem from the same angle.  Can they solve the problem?  Probably.  However, when they have people from many different backgrounds, some older and some younger, can they find a better solution?  Much more likely.


Have you stopped to watch children play with children from other backgrounds?  Are they concerned about anything other than their play?  No.  They are focused on their game of tag or hide and seek or video game.  It is only as they grow older that they are taught that there are differences.


Instead of being focused on our differences as the diversity industry tends to do, let’s focus on our sameness.  Companies that blend employees will sprint forward.  Companies that value only people who look like them will fall far behind.  Let’s improve our blending and all become Americans again, without the differentiation.

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Comment by Suresh on May 7, 2012 at 10:15am

Bill, good read.

My high school daughter just a finished a year long Program that brought together kids from across the metro detroit area. The focus was primarily diversity and personally getting to know people with differences. I was really impressed with this program (Generation of Promise) and am sure there are similar ones across the country.

Most of us need to be forced into situations to able to share and understand people at a personal level. Many of the diversity programs in corporations, can take a page out of this high school year long program.

The point is it has to start early and by the time folks are working it may be too late...

Comment by Bill Humbert on May 7, 2012 at 2:05pm

Hi Suresh,  Thank you.  You are correct except I like to believe that people can change.  It is simply more difficult as we get older.  That sounds like a great program!


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