Select Page

3 ways to value differencesBeing together again after so many years was pure delight. The connection seemed as if we were finishing a conversation begun only the day before.

Familiarity is so comforting.


…there’s too much of it and its dark side surfaces: lack of innovation, narrow-minded thinking, ingrained and unquestioned bias, outdated practices, and failure to grow as a person.

Boredom, too.

So, what’s the antidote to inflexible comfort zones with self-imposed boundaries that limit our potential?

→Training our brains and hearts to accept and appreciate differences.

An increasingly connected world multiplies our contacts with others—some who share our beliefs as well as those who do not. Interacting with people who agree with us and who share similar interests is usually a pleasant experience. Those contacts can be more challenging when they happen with people who see the world differently than we do.

A multitude of contributing factors exist that prompt different points of view:  age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic and marital status, upbringing, disability, appearance, education, and lifestyle.

Other elements come into play as well in shaping how we approach situations and people, things as simple as what sports teams we root for or which political party we support.

Difference takes many forms

ways to be different

If ignored or met with intolerance or indifference, these dissimilarities can be divisive, even lethal for career or business success. Blockbuster, Eastman Kodak, and Borders are but a handful of companies where process became habit and values became dogma, which resulted in those companies becoming history. Professor Donald Sull calls it active inertia—“an organization’s tendency to follow established patterns of behavior.”

People do the same thing.

I once had a boss who had an imaginary grid on his desktop—financials had a certain resting spot as did staff reports and marketing news. And that wasn’t his only routine. He wore a straw fedora in the summer and a wool one in the winter. He abhorred dissent, uncertainty, and pens with red ink. Mimicking his decision-making and thinking styles assured lovely raises. Alternate points of view, not so much. His department output was reliable but unremarkable. His style and impact on the organization is a classic example of active inertia.

3 places to start managing differences

To appreciate difference, here’s three things you can do to get started:

  1. Decide to be open-minded and not automatically reject the unfamiliar.
  2. Challenge yourself to actively seek out new experiences and people.
  3. Embrace the purposeful discomfort that comes with gaining new experiences, insights, knowledge, and maybe a friend or two.

When they’re acknowledged and taken into consideration, differences make us better. Diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective yields richer and more productive outcomes. Plus, diversity fuels creativity, innovation, and deeper thinking, which is the ideal solution to unyielding comfort zones that hold us back from growing into our potential.

All great experiences that engage us have an element of uncertainty at their core. ~Aaron Dignan 

A version of this post first appeared on the Lead Change Group blog | Image source before quote: