After the US presidential elections, Brexit and all the other worrisome developments we have seen around Europe, this is a question that comes to the fore as people all over the world struggle to understand what’s going on. Whose reality is more real? Whose truth is more true? Because one thing has become painfully clear, we live in a time when we are finding it very difficult, to not only understand each other, but also to see each other for who we are. Thanks to preference-driven media (you get more of the types of things you click on) we read what we like, see what we want, and communicate and socialize mostly with those who are like-minded and of similar opinions. This makes life very comfortable and convenient, but it doesn’t make us aware nor prepare us for any other opinions or realities that may be out there.
This is kind of ironic considering all the talk of celebrating diversity that we hear in the organizational context. With markets becoming more global, organizations have to have a workforce that can meet the diversity and multiplicity of wants and needs among customers. Diversity has quickly become a strategic issue, something that every self-respecting company today needs to pay attention to.
However, on the most part companies, unfortunately, don’t really live up to their own rhetoric. Managers still tend to hire like-minded people, and although there may be some awareness of cultural diversity, organizations don’t generally recognize all the other types of differences concerning lifestyle choices, preferences, and needs among their employees, and they certainly don’t seem to embrace them. Although research has shown that diversity does provide real advantages. As I once heard Mellody Hobson say, if everyone in a management team is in agreement, run because that is definitely not good!
But back to the media bubbles we create for ourselves. Media providers increasingly provide us with what we think we want. But the thing is, what we want and what we need is not the same thing. We need to acknowledge that our reality is not the only reality, nor is it the most important reality. To quote one of my favorite authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, there is a danger of a single story.
I have a friend and colleague who I admire very much. One reason is that she doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable; she doesn’t only talk to like-minded people. She is an academic and an activist, and she actively engages in public debates. I was there when she defended her doctoral thesis a couple of months ago, and I have to say, it was one of the most inspirational and thought provoking events I have ever attended. In her thesis, one of the things she argues for is to replace the idea of the universe with what she calls the pluriverse in order to both acknowledge and embrace the diversity and difference between peoples, realities, perspectives, and truths that make up this world in which we live. Maria recently published her lectio (the talk she gave at her defense) on her blog Sustaining Roots. Go check it out; it’s a great read.
Only by seeing, acknowledging and accepting the multitude of stories, realities, and truths that make up our pluriverse, can we create a world for all of us. A world where we can all thrive, not just some of us, and where we can do so in a sustainable way, without destroying this planet we call home.