Many Types of Birds In A Big World
January 27, 2017
When traveling, one’s senses are open to a wide swath of experiences. New experiences bring joy and wonder to my world, yet they can also so be exacerbating, bewildering and frustrating at times. I have traveled to many places in the world together with my friend Koralo – a U.S. citizen, born and raised in China.
When Koralo and I come across a new experience, or if someone acts peculiar, strange or sometimes downright bizarre, we try to make sense of it, chalking it up to “it’s a big world and in a big world there are many types of birds.” This usually elicits smiles and laughter as we navigate the world and the different experiences it brings to our lives.
People come in many sizes, shapes, colors, religions, cultures, values, beliefs, customs and ways of viewing the world. There are great differences and many similarities in our world. Differences bring joy to some while frightening others.
Cultural diversity is defined as differences in race, ethnicity, language, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and gender as represented within a community or workplace. Depending on your upbringing and what you are taught, you can see these differences as strengths or weaknesses – something to embrace or shun.
Teach Your Children Well
We often become what we are taught or what we experience. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where I was taught by word and deed, at an early age, by both religious grounding and family values, to treat ALL people with dignity and respect. I grew up at a time when the outward signs of discrimination were being re-thought, but humans’ attitudes and injustice still remain today.
I was fortunate to grow up with black and white friends. Friends with long names that ended in “ski” – long names I was glad were not mine and I did not have to spell. Sometimes I felt sorry for my Jewish friend for having to eat bagels that I considered non-sugary donuts. When you are young, unless taught otherwise by adults, differences seldom have negative connotations.
We are blessed in this country because it IS so diverse. With diversity comes many perspectives and ideas that add strength in our ability to innovate, strategize, communicate and deliver new ideas while striving to build “a more perfect union”.
Yet, diversity also presents challenges to our nation and within workplaces where differences can collide. Yet, where differences present themselves along with a culture of willingness to be open and learn, opportunity exists to provide people with a means to reach out and discover the amazing commonalities that exist beneath the surface differences among people.
The World Viewed Through a Kaleidoscope
While I choose to live in Michigan, I view myself as a citizen of the world and am constantly seeking ways to incorporate diversity in all its kaleidoscope of wonder and color in everything that I do. Of the various awards and recognitions I have received in my long career, being recognized as someone who acts on the belief of diversity as strength gives me great pride.
As my first professional boss once told me, “If both of us agree on everything, one of us is unnecessary.”
The world would be a dull place and innovation, creativity and problem solving would die under its own weight if we all thought the same. Tension and difference can breed new ideas. Group think seldom provides the genesis of creativity, innovation, and new ideas.
The value of diversity is more than being ‘politically correct’. Diverse backgrounds can strengthen groups, communities, cities, states and nations when embraced and managed well.
Research findings underscore the value of diversity. “You wouldn’t necessarily think that the conflict caused by diversity could lead to better performance, or that a team that feels more comfortable with itself in fact underperforms, but that’s what studies show.” https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/diverse-backgrounds-personalities-can-strengthen-groups
I am glad my family’s religious and belief systems taught me early on to embrace the differences among us, to learn from them, and treat all people with dignity and respect.
It is a big world out there. In a big world, there are many types of birds. Enjoy and embrace the diversity of them all!
http://www.chinausfocus.com/author/84/Tom+Watkins.htmleclectic career in leadership spans government, healthcare, politics, business, K-12 and higher education. He is the President and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. His other passion is China-watching. See his China work at CHINA US Focus
He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88