We Approach Diversity the Wrong Way

Liz Ryan, Harvard Business Review, Oct 17, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I think there's a good point here, though it's handled with ham-handed clumsiness. Here's the good point: diversity is neither addressed nor defined by "dicing the workforce into pre-set categories." As readers know, I believe diversity is key to cognition. This means that for networks to function well, diversity needs to be encouraged. It means that for a person to learn well, diverse experiences should be available. To me, slicing and dicing people into categories is the opposite of this: it's a method of segmenting people based on perceived sameness - sameness of ethnicity, sameness of religion, etc. But the ham-handedness comes in when it is argues that these distinct features should be ignored, that people shouldn't form affinity groups, that the purpose is "to encourage working together." Simply getting people into a room to talk about their diversity doesn't create the benefit diversity brings. It isn't just cultural awareness. There is as much diversity within a culture as there is between them. The point of diversity is, each person has a unique perspective, and it is this perspective that is valuable to the conversation. I need to talk about diversity more, to draw out a fuller understanding of it.

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