Diversity is an Attribute. Difference is an Action.

June 18, 2014

By Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA

The following article is a personal piece written by Jason to help understand the benefits of ‘diversity’ when building teams.

Diversity is a state of being that describes the similarities and variations people have— in essence, it is a contextual characteristic that does not define you! Think about each attribute as just one tool in in a larger tool bag. Tools are catalysts for change; however, if you swing around the same tool for every job, you will most likely never achieve your goals.

Diversity is both having the right set of tools for the job and being able to borrow the tools you don’t have from your neighbors. If you want to make a difference, you and your neighbors need to work together.

Unfortunately, people wear their differences like uniforms, making it hard to identify the person underneath the edifice. This negatively affects team building because captains will most likely select people who wear the same uniform as themselves. Uniformity is the antithesis of diversity. This is equivalent to selecting only goalies for your team’s soccer match.

Adversity is not diversity, it is an obstacle. Furthermore, identifying yourself by your obstacle will only add more barriers around you. You have two choices with adversity, overcome it or accept it. These are the keys to opening doors and moving forward. For years I have struggled with a severe speech impediment and I fought to overcome it. It became a shield for why I couldn’t. When I realized that this shield was too big to fit through most doors, it hit me that my shield was hurting, not protecting, me. In recent years, my speech impediment has made me stronger and being a strong person is just one of my attributes that makes me different and allows me to change the world.

Diversity goes beyond stereotypes- it involves backgrounds, talents, and knowledge. Choose the appropriate differences for your team. Adding a clown to your soccer team will make you more diverse (assuming they make size 36 cleats), but will you succeed against your opponent?

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