What instead of why?
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
If you're like me, as a kid, you might have asked your parents, "why can't I play outside?" And if you're like me, when your parents said, "because I said so," it frustrated you.
I have noticed that any time I ask "why" of people, they get uncomfortable. “Why?" Because "why" creates an uncomfortable feeling of doubt. If I were my parents trying to control the kid version of me, the last thing I would need is self-doubt.
We need a better question. A question that starts with "what." Instead of asking, "why can't I play outside?" we ask, "what is the reason for telling me I can't play outside?” This question challenges us, but in a different way. As parents, we're no longer thinking that our kid is unfairly judging us. We are thinking about our intentions, the circumstance, time, and place. We are naming things - thinking objectively. Imagine what the response would be?
“The reason is for safety. It's 8:30 pm now. It’s dark and it’s well known that when it’s dark the boogie people come out to eat little kids." Just one thoughtful reason a parent could come up with, in response to this newly phrased question.
So when we talk about diversity, we need to rephrase our questioning there as well. It’s not “Why diversity?” — which may elicit many different vague answers. We first need to ask ourselves, “what do we mean when we say diversity?”
For your organization, does diversity mean more people of color? Does it mean veterans? How about LGBTQIA+? Have we thought about people who are uniquely-abled? Justice-involved candidates? Is it the pipeline of talent? Is it the events we show up at? Is it marketing your company at HBCUs? How about tribal colleges?
And what does it mean internally? Does it mean racial sensitivity training? Empathy workshops? Cultural awareness meetings? Employee resource groups? Celebrations and recognition for different cultural and ethnic groups? Surveys for underrepresented minority groups?
Some people might ask, "why do we need diversity?” Some people might respond, "Because we said so."
If we ask, “What is diversity for,” however, we can have a more open ended conversation. For us, at Colorful Connections, we believe diversity is for discovery. Diversity is for discovering what you don't know.
A team that's been working effectively for years likely knows the ins and outs of its work. They know each other, the customer, the product, the organization, and its external stakeholders. They'll use the same language, do the same things, and solve problems the same way. You'll start to hear the seven most deadly words in business, "but we've always done it this way." Diversity is for these teams.
If you were setting your business on a course into uncharted markets, diversity is for you. What if your competition has already made inroads? What if there's nothing to discover? What if there's more and you don't have enough capacity? Diversity is for finding new markets, what your competitors are doing, and creating ability.
"People like us, do things like this" is a culture statement coined by Seth Godin. People who are recruiters recruit by using keywords, leveraging an ATS, and look to fill roles as fast as possible. Diversity is for showing you another way of doing things. Perhaps it's someone from an outside industry? Maybe it's a person with abilities but no corporate experience? What about an unlikely partnership?
We don't want to incorporate diversity into our work because someone "said so." We want to do it because we know it will help us grow. We want to to do it because it will help us create a culture and society we all want to live in.