On Monday I made a presentation at the Training Officer’s Consortium’s Annual Institute. My presentation focused on the impact of diversity in organization’s and the potentially adverse impact of diversity when it is left unmanaged.

One of the key points of my presentation is that diversity and inclusion programs need to go beyond just casual conversations about group differences. While it is certainly helpful to learn about the experiences and history of different groups, getting to know about each other at an individual level is where the real power is if we really want people to work well together. We all belong to different groups. They can be based on gender, race, family structure, organizational position, education levels etc… However the moment we define each other in the context of the groups that we belong to instead of as individuals the potential for conflict grows exponentially.

Another point I wade was about a helpful strategy to manage and resolve conflict. Focusing on interests instead of positions can help people get innovative solutions. So frequently we are too rigid in our positions and we lose sight of what we are truly interested in achieving. Often a solution is right in front of but we miss it because we are so busy defending our position. That’s what I see happening all across the world today – people who are sooooo locked into their position they aren’t able to realize the potential of shared interests and shared goals. Despite our differences we have alot in common and if we just take the time to listen to each other and figure out what is in our best interests instead of fighting over positions we can resolve problems with far less negative conflict.

That will only happen once we decide to be open in our communication, our dialogue, and a make a true commitment to confront our assumptions and biases in way that maintains relationships, acknowledges interests, and leaves people feeling whole.

At the beginning of my presentation I showed a video that I created that I felt exemplified the many challenges this country faces as it continues to grasp with the issue of diversity. How does this video make you feel? Is this the best we can do? Only time will time will tell I guess.

When Diversity Leads to Conflict