“If we only take the time to talk to those we consider different, we might find we have a lot in common,” Laura Ling told our audience at Collinson Media’s Diversity Summit, a conference last month to open the dialogue between meeting professionals who share challenges and goals because of the diverse organizations they represent.
Ling, a journalist for Current TV, was referring to experiences during her captivity in North Korea. Maintaining a position of gratitude got her through each day and helped her see her situation and the North Koreans imprisoning her from a different perspective.
Actor Edward James Olmos also told summit participants that reframing the word “race” to be inclusive instead of exclusive changes everyone’s outlook. “There is only one race, and that’s the human race,” Olmos said.
Conversations with people who have opposing views and beliefs can sometimes rescue you from a situation as extreme as Ling’s or lead to an unexpected friendship like the one between LGBT leader Shane Windmeyer and Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy. Or it can be as simple as inviting the accountant to your next creative brainstorming session.
Filling your planning committee with diversity can be cultural—we all know from experience how travel and experiencing other regions changes our mindset—or simply a matter of style or opinion. When gathering a group to start planning or choosing presenters, make sure to include people with diverse backgrounds and skills. Also, look for those with different leadership and creative styles. Here are some ideas:
Ideas Person – Vision is necessary. This big-picture thinker can cast vision but might not have an internal balance sheet to keep track of why things might not work.
Penny-Pincher – This person prefers to be called practical and tends to hold back the ideas person. It’s important to have them in the room to keep you in check, but make sure they don’t say no to every idea. A “yes, however …” is always welcome.
Maximizer – This person can listen to the idea, why it won’t work and run with it from a different angle. Maybe you can’t put a hologram of your CEO on stage, but you could Skype him in on screen.
Implementer – This person might not say anything the entire meeting but has taken notes, knows what resources you need, and sends the follow-up email with all the assignments.
Can you identify each of these people on your team? You may have to think outside the box, or outside your department to find them.