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Debbie Foster

By Debbie Foster

The Difference “Differences” Make

10/16/12


During this election and high-stakes political season, there are constant references to understanding the “differences” between candidates’ positions on critical issues at the community, city, state, national and international levels.  Having a different point of view or being visibly different in and of itself does not lead to conflict and behavior unbecoming to a human being.  It is our thinking and the meaning we attach to what we hear and experience that creates the response.

This time of year presents a great opportunity to engage in a process that focuses on “differences” as long as we view the “differences” as a way to understand rather than divide. 

Scott Page has written a great book called The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies.  It is a book steeped in logic models and mathematics to support his conditional claim that diversity produces better results.  Pick your favorite cliché to illustrate the value we sometimes place on diversity of experience and thinking– Two heads are better than one --- Opposites attract --- . 

In his book, Mr. Page ends his prologue with this observation:

“As individuals we can accomplish only so much.  We’re limited in our abilities.  Our heads contain only so many neurons and axons.  Collectively, we face no such constraint.  We possess incredible capacity to think differently.  These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress and understanding.”

The United Way Worldwide U.S.A., Board of Trustees recently endorsed a revised statement of diversity and inclusion that I am proud to share here.  Part of the statement’s value is in the process -- the conversations required to get a group to agree upon it. These carefully chosen words are not just a statement of principle, but also a roadmap to guide our thinking and behavior which is its ultimate value.    

What guides or influences your thinking and behavior?

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Here’s a question: Where do the candidates stand on promoting volunteering and national service?