Everyday we apply our assumptions to our surroundings and other people. Most, if not all, of the assumptions we make about ourselves are positive and those of others not so much. However, if the goal is to create inclusive work environment and leverage diversity, then we must continually challenge our assumptions. The best way to accomplish this goal is to be open to new ideas, experiences, and information AND then use those things to change behaviors.
- Spend more time with people who are different from you. Not just race and gender but different schools, different geographical backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different occupations.
- Look for opportunities to gain knowledge through new experiences. Within the workplace, you can consider detail assignments, shadow assignments, working groups, tiger teams, etc.
- Unblock lines of communication. Provide multiple avenues for people to express themselves. Organizations must explore why people do not fully participate in meetings, share ideas, or speak up when things are headed in the wrong direction. Employees may be operating on the assumption that their opinions are not valued or ideas are only valid if they come from certain groups of employees.
- Leverage teachable moments to change behavior. Across the country, organizations host recognition, awareness, or special emphasis ceremonies to commemorate different groups. The goal should be to provide information and awareness that will lead attendees and the organizations to change behaviors that are counter productive or exclusive in nature. If the focus remains on having a good time or cultural history, then an opportunity is lost to leverage the moment to change behaviors in the right direction.
- Invite yourself to “hear it again for the first time.” Have you ever taken a class and thought, “I already know this stuff?” Most people fiddle with their blackberry, surf the internet, and do other things throughout the class to keep busy. However, they are missing a great opportunity to challenge their assumptions about a subject and learn it from a different perspective.