Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

Someone Like Me

By Kimberly Lord - 04.06.2011

Most people I talk with would agree that it’s human nature to be drawn to someone like yourself.

Simply walk past the American Girl store on Michigan Avenue to see little girls stream out carrying dolls that mimic their hair, skin and eye color dressed in identical outfits.

When I worked at JPMorgan Chase, I recall hearing our CEO Jamie Dimon, acknowledge this idea with his trademark candor and then segue into the topic of attracting a diverse workforce and customer base.

Pat Harris, Global Chief Diversity officer at McDonald’s, documents her company’s diversity path in her book, None of Us is as Good as All of Us.

Harris writes of McDonald’s early expansion in the 1960s, “We needed to change the complexion of our company to survive in a society that was dramatically changing all around us.  If we were to continue to grow and expand, we needed to recognize the new realities of the world in which we operated and change our approach.”

So how do we change our approach when our default is programmed to gravitate toward someone like us?

I was reminded of the answer just yesterday in a follow-up training session with a group who had recently taken KMA’s web-based diversity series:

What you do is change the definition of “like.”

As colleague after colleague shared their experience – they too acknowledged their norm or natural bias to choose someone like themselves when given the choice.

But when they began to learn about others and change the conversations to engage and create relationships with people different from themselves – their joint experience created a new connection, a new common ground, a bridge.

Suddenly the way they defined “someone like me” broadened to include a whole new spectrum of people.

And little by little, as my KMA colleagues like to call it – the termite revolution takes over.

There may be millions of business and financial reasons to change the equation – but the one clear way to accomplish it – is to learn to see people “like me” in a whole new light.

What are you seeing?

One Response so far

Diversity is something that is chosen by each individual person, You can be around someone for a long time, and know a lot about what they do, and how they are, but if you’re unwilling to interact with that person, and accept their differences and respect them for who they are, then there is no divers relations between those individuals. You can observe, and know all about their culture, and not know the true essence of a person until you interact with them.

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