Let me get straight to the point. One key element contributing to the dilemma of creative thinking in the workplace is fear of diversity – fear of "too" different. You see, this "too different" causes discomfort. This is the "get out of our comfort zone" we don't consider and resist.
The comfort zone we usually address is pushing ourselves to grow, moving beyond where we currently are as our choice on our terms. This is the one most familiar when we use that phrase.
But, there's another. I call it "the diversity discomfort zone". This one allows others – much different than us – to come into our zone and be truly who they are, even if it causes discomfort and we, in some cases, have to do the work to be accepting, receiving, embracing no matter the level of that discomfort.
Allowing a discomfort zone is a very different way of looking at "getting out of your comfort zone."
I explain it this way in my new book Brain on Fire - Unleashing Your Creative Superpowers in the section, "Are You On Lockdown?"
"On the one hand, we say, ‘Be different, we need different, we celebrate different, we’re desperate for different. Different will make us more money, will solve our problems, cure our human ills.’
On the other hand, we think and feel, ‘Wait a minute, your different is making me feel uncomfortable. Your different is strange to me. I’m not sure we want your different. I prefer comfort over different. Can you be sorta different, but still be mostly like me?’
In essence, what they really want…is for you to stay on lock down. But, you say, ‘Oh, no I won’t!’
I say give them what they need — they need the fully free, real you —though they may not know it; and for many, they don’t.
Don’t let them stop you! You grab that key, unlock your cell, discover and dust off the barely recognizable parts of you and begin to tune in, so you can turn on and tune up all that talent, so that ultimately you can turn out all of you and the best of you!
You see, as we proclaim commitment to diversity, many don't realize there are various degrees of it and various levels of discomfort associated with it. That goes for diverse thinking as well.
Diversity and creating/innovative thinking go hand in hand. The source of that thinking may look just like you or wear something completely different than you, with a contrasting skin tone. Diverse thinking can be just as uncomfortable as a diverse appearance.
The challenge and dilemma as a leader is, can you handle thoughts or points of view so different, so diverse, to the point of discomfort? Or, the better question may be, "Are you willing to handle....?"
If you want your team to be more innovative, better decision-makers, to effectively process improve, you'll need to come to terms with this question, "How much diversity can you and are you willing to handle?" One thing’s for sure, many leaders keep their talent and that of their teams on lock down because they can't!
Originally posted on JoAnn Corley's Talent Talk Blog.