Team Elements – Commitment: Diversity

by Ron Potter

We’re looking at the element of Commitment in our Truth, Respect, Elegance, Commitment (TREC) journey to great teams.

Last week we talked about the trust required in great teams.  Trust of purpose, leader, and team members.  In building that trust we must look at the diversity of thinking and points of view.

Word of Caution

During my career, I have been asked to either lead a “diversity” effort or coach the person who was leading the effort.   The first thing that struck me was that diversity was defined by outward appearance.  Race and gender were the two most common ones but any number of characteristics can be identified.

Inclusion, not Diversity

One of my first reactions was that it shouldn’t be called “Diversity training” it should be named “Inclusion training.”  Because the name identified it as diversity, it seemed like the curriculum was based on emphasizing the diversity rather than turning it to inclusion.

As I got to know the people who were to be part of the process, I noticed that two members thought similar to each other even though they were of a different race and gender.  While another pair almost never saw eye-to-eye even though they were the same race and gender.

Diversity of Thinking

Great teams have learned to respect different points of view and how to work with those differences as simply differences.  Not good or bad.  Not right or wrong.  Just differences.

In my car the other day, I heard an old song by Dave Mason that hits this one right on the head.  The words are:

There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy
There’s only you and me and we just disagree

No good.  No bad.  Just disagreement.  Let’s start with the fact that we just see things differently.

Brain Science

Why is that?  Why can we observe the same thing and yet it seems like we see things differently?

One of the tools that have helped answer that question is the functional MRI (fMRI).  The MRI has been around for years but it simply took a snapshot.  The fMRI takes video!  We can actually see movement within the brain.

When our eyes observe an event, the image isn’t simply recorded on our brain and then stored on our “hard drive.”  There are two major flaws in believing that’s how we see the world around us.

Brain Processing Centers

First, are the known processing centers of our brain.

  • Values
  • Emotions
  • Goals
  • Beliefs
  • Ideas
  • Memories
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Experiences

There are somewhere over twelve processing centers known today and many scientists believe there may be at least twice that many.

What we know from the fMRI is that when an image enters our eyeball and the optic nerve, it is split into at least 127 million bits of information and dispersed throughout the processing centers named above.  The image is then funneled through the ancient processing centers of motion detection and object recognition before being “reassembled” into coherent perception.

Think about that for a minute.  You and I can watch the same event.  But, because I have very different emotions, goals, beliefs, memories. etc. the image that is “reassembled” in my brain can and will be different from the image reassembled in your brain.  We see different things!

Courtroom judges will tell you that if two eyewitnesses tell the same story, the judge knows there has been collusion because “no two eyewitnesses ever see the same thing!”  We see things differently!  Just because someone has a whole different take on a situation don’t mean they’re not telling the “truth.”  “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy.  There’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

Memory is Not a Hard drive

Because we’ve been using personal computers now for several decades, we’ve come to think that our memory functions much the same as computer memory.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When we enter data onto a computer storage device or in the cloud, we can depend on it to be exactly the same when we retrieve it in the future.  However, our human memory doesn’t work that way.  Not only is it modified by the processing centers that we just talked about, but new experiences are also constantly modifying our memory from the moment it’s stored.  Our memory is never an accurate representation of what was first stored in our brain.

Beliefs and Assumption

Because of this science-based understanding, we should start conversations about decisions and difficult topics by having everyone share their beliefs and assumptions.  They’re all valid.  It will help you understand where others are coming from.  It will help them understand your position.  It will actually give the team a great foundation to begin working toward a position of commitment.

Appreciate diverse thinking!  It’s powerful!  It gives us a broader range of perspectives and helps us move forward together.  Every point of view is an accurate one.

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