Diversity can easily be treated as a buzzword, numbers game or as a program. When this happens, the full power and impact of its meaning is lost. Diversity is much more than a program, hiring a few people of different gender or ethnic backgrounds or allowing a few diverse opinions to surface from time to time. It is actively searching out and embracing the uniqueness, strengths and talents of all people, so the organization can have a collective impact on the greater good of the individual, organization, customer and the community. Diversity really means being able to draw people from a wider base of talent. In fact, encouraging diversity is inseparable from creating opportunities to draw the very best talent from a global talent pool. No special group has an edge on information, knowledge or talent. As the organization grows a web of inclusion, it will often begin to include a global workforce as well as a global marketplace. The acceptance of the value we place in diversity, expands the knowledge required in the real-life business scenarios we face everyday. Diversity allows the organization to tap into the greater variety of unique talents, which are found in a workforce made up of people with diverse backgrounds. Individuals within an organization must collectively build cultural bridges with each other, realizing that diversity awareness is a not an event but a growth-oriented and life-long process. Diversity is about everyone in the organization, not just some of the people, and that engagement of the mind and heart are more important than agreement. We must continually peel back our assumptions, suspend our defensiveness, invite deeper connections and together create organizational alternatives that drive action and change toward inclusiveness of both present and future stakeholders. This should not be done simply for the sake of being inclusive, but rather for the need to invite diverse innovative thinking which can better serve the organization and those customers it serves. The organization must encourage unique and diverse ways of doing things, realizing this approach is a key to enhancing the entire organizations capacity to adapt and change, in response to the market and the abilities and talents of all stakeholders. As we encourage diversity, we must continually enhance a strategy of inclusion that supports individual contribution, both in decision-making and in airing dissenting views. This approach allows and encourages everyone in the organization to feel they are an important part of organizational collective success, as well as feeling they have a sense of ownership in the outcome of organizational goals and objectives. Because of business and moral necessity, the organization will become more inclusive. Because of the appreciation of diversity and realizing that diversity is inseparable from inclusiveness, the organization should believe that as an organization and as individuals, it must continue to press for diversity to become the fabric, the way it does things, as a collective network of talented, unique people. The following can be used as your organizations pledge to the dignity of each stakeholder. “A fundamental tenet of our core values is the belief that every employee adds unique value to the organization. We embrace the idea that diversity is a competitive advantage we must promote and protect. We will actively invite and include ideas from across the organization to better serve our customers. We will always strive to show respect for the dignity of every individual. Inclusiveness expands our knowledge.” As you strive to show respect and dignity to those around you, both inside and outside the organization, consider often how you both answer and demonstrate your answers to the following questions. • Do I work at understanding and extending myself to others? • Do I understand cultural, religious, gender, racial and other differences? • Do I treat people of all backgrounds and beliefs fairly? • Do I value working with a diverse group of people? • Do I acknowledge and value different backgrounds and perspectives? • Do I make personal decisions that are fair? • Do I actively seek to build teams of people taking “diversity of talent” into account? • Do I ask unique people for their unique perspective? • Do I act as a facilitator/coach in mending relationship differences in those around me? • Do I practice “systems thinking” by thinking from others’ perspective? • Do I practice empathy or standing in the other person’s shoes? • Do I seek to understand another point of view before passing judgment? • Do I listen actively for “diversity of ideas” rather than agreement? • Do I encourage and accept “diversity of thought” as being important to enhancing the competitive advantage we seek as an organization? • Do I truly accept others as they are, while assisting them to grow in accepting others as well? As you develop your personal answers to the questions posed, also develop your personal action plan for how you will demonstrate your beliefs in supporting the value of diversity. In the context of all the questions asked, do you actively seek out, hire and grow people who are different than you? Diversity will only become real to each and every individual as they experience opportunities that enable them to broaden their reach, scope and experience, and see the value their efforts have on the success of the organization. Each individual needs to engage in the intentional search for human diversity and goodness. Copyright Information: You MAY reprint the information contained in this article as long as no portion of the contents are modified and it used “exclusively” within your organization. You must also give credit to information by including the tag line...Roger M. Ingbretsen, Author, Speaker, Leadership Coach, Organizational and Career Developer.