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Valuing diversity and building bridges (Plurality)

Plurality is diversity in dialogue, in other words, it combines the ideas of diversity and dialogue into one concept, hence the summary phrase valuing diversity and building bridges.

  • Diversity and inclusion – the challenge with diversity on its own is that it can be static and not very relational. A business can work towards being more diverse by hiring more women, people from minority groups, different ages, but with little emphasis on how each of us relates with each other, privacy and individual identity is respected with little emphasis on sharing and learning from each other.
  • Reaching out to those who disagree with or criticise us – this is reflected at the centre of the Blueprint Principles – a call to be true (consistent and clear about identity and character) but also to welcome scrutiny (to be in dialogue with critics as well as supporters).

Dominique Pire, a Belgian Dominican priest who worked tirelessly for peace after the Second World War and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1958 for his efforts says this about dialogue: 

To dialogue means to look beyond the boundaries of one’s conviction and, for the duration of the dialogue, to share the heart and spirit of the other, without abandoning any part of one’s self, in order to understand, judge and appreciate the real goodness and usefulness present in the thoughts, feelings and actions of the other. One must really fill oneself with the other. It therefore requires one to put one’s self, who we are and what we think, between a sort of parenthesis, to appreciate the other positively, without necessarily sharing the other’s point of view. In this there is a profound self-sacrifice.

Diversity, inclusion and dialogue are discussed further in: Diversity, inclusion, openness and dialogue

There is abundant evidence in business now of the vital importance of both identity and cognitive diversity in bringing a range of experience and different ways of approaching a problem, and the constant risk of the natural human desires to belong and fit in to limit the necessary exposure and challenge which all organisations need. And this is not only about how we individually can change. Rather it is about what happens at the collective level when there is true diversity and inclusion in the system, and where a change in attitudes and approaches can create new common goods as emergent properties. 

We are preoccupied with helping individuals to become smarter, more perceptive, more able to guard against biases. And yet while this perspective is important we should never allow it to obscure the holistic perspective. The content of these concepts emerges not from the parts but the whole. This is crucial in an era where our most pressing problems are too complex for individuals to solve on their own; an era where collective intelligence is moving front and centre.

Matthew Syed, Rebel Ideas

Questions to consider:

The following questions are a way of considering the evolution of habitual practice which this section seeks to describe, from a starting point of self-interest alone to an aspiration:

  • Am I ‘playing it safe’ to avoid conflict and quell dissent?
  • Am I relying on others to offer their critique, but not actively seeking it out?
  • Am I actively embracing diversity of thinking and cultures and engaging with critics to test my thinking?