Divergent

“We need people to take different choices. We need people to state different views. We need people to go a different way. Some will work. Some won’t. Let’s judge the outcomes when there are outcomes to judge, not by the pack called sentiment. Our ecosystem of innovation in ways of organising will be richer for the diversity.”

The above is taken from a thought provoking post by @simongterry titled The pack called sentiment. Take a read and pop back.

Simon talks about how sentiments in a networked world change quickly and how in our reinforcing bubbles of information we can see shared views increase rapidly and reverse direction quickly on the slimmest pieces of information.

This got me thinking about things I’m working on involving change and about ensuring fair representation from and for a diverse population. Specifically about how concerns about perceived threats or changes are rightly or wrongly interpreted or expressed.

It’s no surprise when we are asked to move from one iteration of something to another that we experience and demonstrate differing degrees of acceptance or rebellion. We show and act on conscious and unconcious bias. As Simon says “When everyone has to stake a view and when many build on collective opinion for support and distribution, it can intimidate everyone from taking a chance.”

Ever since we were born, we’ve been categorised as in this silo or that one. Over the year’s I’ve been in yellow teams at school, Owls patrol in Cubs, Eagles in Scouts and many other categories as I’ve moved through various organisations, societies and institutions. Others may have been part of houses at school and student societies. In the work environment it’s teams, sections, departments and directorates. Then there’s political and religious affiliation.

We have, and demonstrate, differing allegiances to these tribes, developing over time from familiarity or loyalty. They may be closely linked to various cultural, even regional and other representative characteristic groups often referred to as collective persona.

This appears the case for generations too and increasingly seems to manifest itself in how we are expected to be. Me; I’m Gen X apparently meaning I’m more likely to demonstrate values of Balance, Diversity, Entrepreneurship and Fun. Be Highly Educated (not so much!), have high job expectations, be Independent, Informal, have a lack of organizational loyalty (interesting!), be pragmatic, seek life balance (totally), have self-reliance, be sceptical/cynical, think globally and be techno literate.

Away from work, our leisure time and entertainment is often based on tribes and associations too; sporting and other clubs, churches and societies.

Books and films reaffirm categorisation and affiliation.

Harry Potter and Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry has the Sorting ceremony. Its purpose is to assign first years to one of the four school houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin.

Hunger Games where society is divided into conflicting districts fighting and being coerced and manipulated by the Capital.

Demonstrating things perfectly, Divergent Series where society is again divided into five factions which supposedly removes the threat of anyone exercising independent will: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Those who are factionless have no status or privilege in society. When children reach the age of 16, they are subject to a serum-induced psychological test which recommends their best-suited faction, then are allowed to choose any faction as their permanent faction. Where test results show attributes of multiple factions, this means that person is Divergent. Divergents can think independently and are considered threats to the existing social order. There’s a promotional Divergent aptitude test to determine your faction. Try it here.

Aptitude

Appropriate representation at all levels from diverse groups in planning how things should be increases the chances for smoother implementation, builds trust and ensures any changes are more readily accepted. Holding shared values around a common purpose helps too.

But back to Simon’s thinking, and my experience of recent change projects; people don’t always fit snuggly into a category.

Maybe what we read, see, experience and interpret from our leisure time and personal life experiences should shape how we are expected to be and how we do things at work.   That’s probably my Gen X trait of work/life balance kicking in but why shouldn’t different perspectives contribute to finding better solutions, shaping values and creating different cultures.

I’ve used what I learned recently about watching the films in the Divergent Series to see there are two expressions in the early stages of change initiatives. Firstly, people’s genuine concerns about the viability of elements of the change and secondly, the general reluctance to any form of change.

It’s too easy to confuse genuine concerns with reluctance and therefore dismiss them and head off down a less than perfect path.

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