It’s lunch time.
Imagine that you’re about to make a sandwich.
You’ve carefully laid out the ingredients. You have your meat, your cheese, and your veggies.
There’s just one problem.
You’re out of ketchup.
At first you gasp. You shed a tiny tear. But, then you start to consider what other condiment you can use to complete your masterpiece.
Do you use mayonnaise? Mustard? Perhaps something a bit more obscure like dill spread, hummus, or pesto?
Let’s stop right here.
Where did you imagine you were looking for ketchup? In the cupboard? Or the refrigerator?
If you envisioned looking in the fridge and finding your ketchup empty, then you likely considered other refrigerated alternatives–mayonnaise, mustard, et al.
But if you were thinking of the cupboard, you likely had an entirely different set of alternatives.
I’m not so concerned with where you kept the ketchup. (There is–apparently–a raging debate over which is the right answer.) But, the point is that your different experience or preference is likely to shape your next move. It literally shapes the way that you associate things in your brain, which rewires how you think–and how you act.
This same phenomenon applies to almost any kind of critical thinking or problem solving scenario. As humans, our experiences and our mental associations often drive the solutions that we come up with.
When we discuss diversity in the workplace, many times it involves thinking about gender, race, and other designations.
But, really, these characteristics are often just a proxy for why diversity is seen as a critical component for driving creativity and cultural awareness. That is, diversity of experiences–different perspectives about the world.
Of course, there is plenty to be said about pursuing diversity simply because it’s the right thing to do–because inclusion is an important part of the workplace.
But there are more benefits for teams beyond just doing what’s right.
Sure, which sandwich spread you choose is fairly inconsequential. But, where you grew up, your rituals, your opinions, and your life experiences all shape the way you think, the way you act, and the way you solve problems.
It’s for this reason that diversity is such a valuable tool for teams.
Different perspectives lead to different kinds of solutions. Because of how our brains are wired, a solution that is obvious to one person may seem abstract or irrelevant to someone else. Thus, the more diversity in perspective that you have when analyzing a problem, the more likely you are to consider a broader range of possible solutions.
This proves to be a huge asset for teams that are regularly tasked with analyzing and solving difficult problems. Considering a broader range of solutions is more likely to surface a better or more innovative idea.
In other words, diversity of experiences helps to drive innovation and better, more creative problem solving.
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