Vive la différence!
There’s a wonderful part of my interview with Scott McArthur, internationally acclaimed voice of reason and challenge, TEDx speaker and all round good guy, where we collide in a moment of complete agreement.
It’s at a point when we are talking about embracing difference and how we spend vast amounts of money casting our recruitment nets far and wide to attract fresh thinking, diverse people, to introduce and challenge our current corporate culture, just to spend equal amounts of money assimilating them into our existing culture so they ‘fit in’. It’s exasperating!
“Companies spend millions of pounds looking for talent, on bringing in the best people. So they find somebody who has this fascinating background, good CV, good experience, has good ideas… they bring them in and they induct them and they say ‘right, this is how it’s done around here’. They don’t say ‘have a look and tell us what we’re doing wrong’ or ‘tell us what we could do a bit more efficiently’, why is that not the norm?”
Why do we go to such lengths to engage new blood and different perspectives just to try and mould them into our way of thinking? We should embrace difference, teasing out every last instance of positivity, variety and challenge that is available. These very differences could be exactly what we need to change our environment for the better. If we don’t want change, then why seek it out? We certainly shouldn’t be looking for new people to bring modernity, questions, progress and new dynamics if we aren’t prepared to respect and welcome it.
Inducting people into our organisations is a process that has been ongoing for many decades. We have processes, manuals, meetings, reviews and checks to ensure people continue to maintain the status quo and work in harmony with the way people currently operate, it’s a completely self-defeating cycle.
Human beings are complex. Bringing many together inevitably needs some structure and organisation. We know that, it’s what we do. But keeping the workplace orderly whilst encouraging individuality and a measure of creative thinking is a joyous prospect! Imagine working somewhere where you are 100% allowed to be yourself. Most of us present a work side that we detach from our home side - and never the two shall meet. But the current challenge, borne from working at home, is showing us a little more in our true colours and allowing some overlap.
I still cringe when I see someone’s chaotic kitchen behind them in a public Zoom call. The more old-school amongst us will still remember the days when ‘working from home’ was considered unprofessional and it was hugely disguised - an urgent 3pm ‘meeting’ was actually the school run. Those home-working people were light years ahead and are now probably the ones who are most comfortable showing their washing up on national TV.
Getting back to the point… Scott McArthur talks about seeing the difference. He has a friend, a musician, who has no business background but he often points things out so that Scott is able to see things differently. He talks about the dichotomy of inviting people from within the organisation to explore things – instead of bringing in external people who might offer a totally new slant. We need to see people – really see them for who they are and what they bring.
“You’re really active as a profession, going out finding diverse candidates, it’s brilliant, great, so you’ve ticked the box, you’ve found some women, you’ve found some BAME people, you’ve found some people with a disability and you bring them in and then what do you do? You assimilate them. Rather than saying ‘come in and be included in our business as you are, it’s no, this is how we are and you need to assimilate. And they can’t assimilate into the environment because it’s not their lived experience. So they leave.”
In this period, during this time of great change, maybe this is the kind of thinking we can take forward and manage better? The lessons in us working differently should surely include how we view people differently? Bring it on, we say!