In the general population, differences of perspective can lead to such severe misunderstandings that wars erupt. At the workplace, diversity of thought can propel a company into success, if it is recognized and cultivated in a healthy manner. Independent thinking evolves from cultural differences, but is also present simply among various personality types. Squelching differing thoughts and opinions not only stifles creativity but it can also build resentment over time.
Forming a Diversity Committee
Encouraging diversity of thought begins at the top of an organization. However, it doesn't end there. Encouraging every employee to express his own thoughts so that he is heard in the workplace requires action on everyone's part. One activity that promotes variations of thought is forming a committee focused on diversity in the workplace that is a cross-section of the company's culture. Place this committee in charge of coming up with action points and recognizing where there is intolerance in keeping an open mind about other people's ideas.
Representing Diversity in Your Literature
Represent the diversity of a company's workforce when producing the organization's literature. Instruct the marketing department to put together pieces that show a cross-section of all cultures. Workers who don't feel represented by the images they see related to the company can feel segregated. Diversity in the people showcased in company communications helps set the tone for accepting all cultures, beliefs and subsequent thoughts.
Performing Training Exercises
Regularly perform diversity training exercises to keep the subject fresh and in the employees' minds. It is easy for bad habits to take hold if regular reminders are not provided for employees. For example, intolerance may arise around holiday celebrations at work. Not everyone has the same belief systems and the choices of those in the minority should be honored. Role-playing games and even online video training help remind employees to embrace diversity of thought in the workplace. It also helps them see that accepting the opinions of others can create better and more profitable ideas that grow the company. It's not always just about race or religious differences; at times basic differences in personality can create differences of thought as well.
Asking for Feedback
One activity that promotes diversity of thought in the workplace is to check in for regular feedback about how current programs are working. Without this in place, resources may be focusing on the wrong problem. Asking for feedback also causes employees to feel that their opinions matter and voices are heard. Pooling the opinions of employees can be accomplished through town halls, smaller department meetings, or even anonymous online surveys. Uncovering the deficiencies helps planning committees formulate future programs to encourage further diversity of thought.