DIVERSITY OF EXPRESSION | WHY WE NEED THE DIFFERENCES
Nature teaches us most of the real lessons of life, if we just pay attention. One of those messages is to celebrate uniqueness.
In nature, animals are different and that uniqueness gives them a distinct advantage in their respective environments. Have you ever seen an eagle run or an ostrich fly? The dolphin is comfortable in the water, but don’t ask it to roam the savanna or a lion to swim the Atlantic. In the woods, deer have a keen sense of smell, while turkeys possess extraordinary sight. Both serve as a vital defense mechanism.
This diversity of expression is equally true in humans. But most people tend to notice and focus on external qualities like color, height, accent and the like.
However, if you pay attention, the real diversity is as unique and apparent in people as it is in nature. Some are meticulous and precise while others are carefree and spontaneous. Some enjoy leading the way; others enjoy supporting behind the scenes.
The diversity of expression from individual to individual is what makes the world work, yet society tends to seek conformity. Though we all see the need for unified standards of character, often this carries over into how we want or expect everyone to think and express themselves.
For instance, everyone understands the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in our educational system. It is an essential ingredient for America to maintain its global competitiveness. But recently Dr. Elizabeth Paul, Stetson University’s executive vice president and provost, who is also a full professor with tenure in the Department of Psychology, commented on the importance of another key component.
She added “arts” to these four disciplines, describing it as “S-T-E-A-M.” Paul explained that one of the other essentials to our global position is nurturing the ability to think creatively and to release the potential of our imagination, a point that both Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were strong advocates of.
Our school systems often force conformity, but the attempt to standardize how we are motivated, what interests us, how long someone can focus on a particular subject and how we learn is a futile effort. Standardized testing is just as its name indicates – “standardized” and if we understand the diversity of expression and the uniqueness of individuals, then how can we “standardize” our children?
A standardized measure of knowledge is not a prediction of success, yet that is the crown we place on students.
Employers today realize that someone’s Emotional Quotient (EQ), may be as valuable as their Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Questions like: Can they interact with people, can they read other people’s more subtle communications and are they able to determine how to motivate people towards a common goal?
I wonder if some researcher is going to come up with an “Entrepreneurial Quotient” test? From my experience, they may find that kids who have high Trep Quotients (TQ’s) may be the same ones diagnosed with ADD. “Short attention span, impatient, impulsive, distorted sense of time, difficulty in following directions, daydream often, act first without considering consequences, lack in social graces,” sound familiar?
So is the child ADD or entrepreneurial? In an attempt to control behavior, we tend to over diagnose and medicate an individual’s diversity of expression and their true calling.
I’m OK; You’re OK
Personality experts will tell you that a key factor in leadership success is surrounding yourself with personalities that differ from and balance your own. There are hundreds of books and seminars available to examine different ways to categorize personalities. The DISC model is one of the most commonly used to separate people into quadrants of their highest tendency:
D – Driven, Dominant, Demanding, Decisive
I – Interactive, Inspiring, Impressionable, Influence
S – Steady, Supportive, Stable, Sweet
C – Cautious, Conscientious, Calculating, Competent
This analysis can be helpful or destructive depending upon how the information is used. The key to diversity of expression is truly accepting and respecting another individual’s unique tendencies and his or her position. Tolerance is the ability to hear and respect another’s position while not necessarily being swayed to change your own.
We believe that by valuing and affirming these differences, we give opportunity for everyone in our organization to have a significant place and to make a significant contribution.