Let’s say you’re stranded on a desert (not deSSert) island with a group of 15 OTHER individuals, think LOST (not cupcake wars). The exception is, this time, all that is needed to get off the island is to travel to an adjacent island, which has everything you need to survive and get back to civilization. The water is shark-infested (think mega-piranha-JAWS), and the only way to get to the other island is to build a floating device (read: boat) as swimming is not an option.
Of 16 people on the island, there are four types of people: The Doers, the Talkers, the Thinkers, and the Connectors.
Now, if you split up the four groups, which group would get to the island of safety and freedom first? If you’re like most people, you’re thinking, “My group, of course!” As my teenaged boys would say, “That’s debatable.” Let’s look at the groups and see how it would likely play out for each.
Doers (Red - Dominant)
This crowd is fast-paced, direct, strong-willed, and sometimes considered forceful. They have a vision and are ready to make it happen, now. They don’t have time to say, “as soon as possible,” they only have time to say “A.S.A.P.” and they would get on that water A.S.A.P. Because time is of the essence, they would likely have the first boat, probably offending the other groups along the way, but would say, “Hey, we got it done, didn’t we?”. The result, however, may not be what is wanted. They moved so fast with their vision, that they forgot to check some lashings, or pick the right wood. The result may well be that half way across their boat starts to sink in the mega-piranha-JAWS-shark infested waters. As their raft goes down, they may reflect on their precarious situation and wish that they had measured twice or even developed an actual plan instead of jumping in with both feet. That leads us to our next group.
Thinkers (Compliant – Blue)
This group would, undoubtedly, have the most fantastic plan drawn up for a boat. It would be over-priced, over-engineered, and over-done. If it were ever built, it would withstand icebergs as if they were ice cubes, too bad Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t have that on his Titanic.
However, with so much planning, drawing, and re-drawing to make constant improvements, it’s likely this crew will start the boat and turn back to make modifications. They just might starve before they can leave the design stage and actually get off the island.
Talkers (Influencer – Yellow)
These are the friendly, lively, fast-paced, and socially-accepting crowd. Often known as the life of the party. Their background music in life would be Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls (and Guys) just want to have fun.” And they WOULD have fun working on this project. So if you are to be “stuck” on a deserted Island, well, these might be the ones you want to be “stuck” with. They’d bust out some coconuts and grass hats, and before long, they’d even have Piña Colada’s to liven up the party. Although they might never finish their boat, they’d have a good time working. If they ever make it off the island, they will have stories everyone wants to hear, which will inspire others to do the same thing… on purpose.
Connectors (Green Steadiness)
This soft-hearted, easy-going, and accommodating bunch will likely become best friends after the experience. However, when working on the plans, they will see what others are doing and will keep switching plans as their opinions are more easily be swayed by others. Without concrete plans or action items, they will have a difficult time getting their project “across the finish line.” However, provided the others are willing to share their ideas with them, there is a good chance that they could finish the project, just maybe not in the time frame needed for survival.
So, who wins?
In a case like this, everyone loses. This scenario isn’t far from the world that you and I live in today. Nearly the entire primary educational system is based upon the concept of working in a silo. If you collaborate, you’re cheating. And even as adults, that can carry over. When was the last time you had someone inadvertently tell you that your opinion was acceptable, or even important, as long as it matched their opinion?
In today’s world, the group that wins is the one who realizes that the most significant success happens with a diverse group: Doers, Talkers, Thinkers, and Connectors working together. Warning: this only works if the people involved embrace the differences for the value that diversity brings to the team as a whole.
It may be an over said phrase these days, but quite literally, we ARE stronger together.
So, what does this have to do with our society and the environment today? Not to say, this is everyone, but there are too many people in our world that think “different is bad.” These people essentially regress to a Teenaged-Neanderthal (is that a double negative?) that thinks only with the primitive brain. They lack perspective, understanding, and an open mind. Instead of embracing the good and light that comes from our differences, they view variation as bad and darkness.
Speaking on this topic, I love what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said regarding this, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Think about it. I mean, REALLY think about it!
Can you imagine a business that only had one way of doing things? Maybe they only had one department. Perhaps a company that only had a sales department, but no customer service, research, development, marketing, human resources, facilities management, etc.? What about a grocery store that only sold cereal? No milk, no bread, nothing else. If you’re wondering about what would happen to such companies who get stuck into thinking their way is the only way, why don’t you run an online search for excite.com, hotbot.com, askjeeves.com, or any of the other search engines that are no more? What about Kodak, Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Tower Records, Pan American Boarders, and more? Each has its own story, but the message they share is that they failed to look outside the box at other ways of doing things, and embrace “different.”
I believe the secret to “get off the island” is embracing a variety of cultures and thereby creating a safe space where we enjoy the freedom to reach our personal and professional goals together. Research shows that when differences are accepted and encouraged, societies are more likely to experience greater benefits such as health, prosperity, harmony, and stability. What’s more, citizens are more civically minded, more generous, and more neighborly.
So, does diversity matter? Well, if you want to go somewhere fast, it might not be quite as important, but if you want to go far and actually get off the island you’re currently stuck on... then it’s the only way.