Technology and Values LO11708

Robert Ingram (
Tue, 07 Jan 1997 09:26:52 -0800

Replying to LO11674 --

Ben wrote:

"I cannot help but feel that this diversity also divides us and keeps us
from working together effectively as a global community."

I believe that Ben has hit upon a critical issue with regard to diversity.
Most diversity specialists trumpet the competitive advantages of diversity
and pretend that there are no down sides. The reality is that diversity is
not inherently good or bad, it just is. Oxygen is neither good nor bad. It
is certainly good when you need it to breathe, but it is bad when sprayed
on a fire. Likewise, diversity can be an impediment to effective
communication, or it can be an asset to creative problem solving. The key
is in what we do with it.

Diana Murdock touched on the solution, which:

> is to agree on a set of core values that are absolutes for the
> group-those deep beliefs that will not be violated and can be built upon
> with different answers in different cultures.

This is part of the solution. Some people feel that we should focus on our
commonalities, while others stress the importance of recognizing and
valuing our differences. The answer, I believe, lies in doing both.

The first step is in recognizing that diversity exists and that we, the
members of the team--whatever team that might be at the time--are diverse.
While the internet has been touted as a place where diversity is
irrelevant (witness the current MCI commercials on American television),
the fact is that our differences do come through even in this medium. So,
the first step is in recognizing that the diversity exists.

The second step is deciding how we want that diversity to operate--for us
or against us. If we try to deny the diversity or assume that it is
irrelevant, we have ipso facto decided to let our diversity work against
us. That's just a natural consequence.

If we want our diversity to work for us, then we have to determine two
things: what we have in common and what we have that diverges. We should
strive to determine what goals we have in common--without any one
individual or group imposing goals on the rest of the group. Then, we
should determine what common strategies we should use to achieve those
goals. At the same time, we have to recognize what goals some of us may
have that are not shared by the group as a whole. If we fail to recognize
these differences, we will certainly recognize them later when the project
goes awry. (Do the words "hidden agenda" ring a bell?) Then, we must
recognize that each of us has his or her own unique ways of doing things
(i.e., reaching goals). To be successful as a team, we need to recognize
and *value* each person's unique way of reaching goals. Though your way
may be different from mine, I (and we) can benefit from that difference if
we recognize that different perspectives mean potentially multiple

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many
different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's

Robert Ingram
Ingram Communications
"The world is a kaleidoscope of wonder."


Robert Ingram <>

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