By an unfortunate quirk of fate, I was back in the USA last week. I flew out Monday (a UK Public Holiday) and flew home Thursday night so as to be back for family commitments this weekend. It was a good week. The only blip appeared on Thursday morning when I opened an email from my trans-Atlantic airline with the stark header – ‘Flight Cancellation’!
Shock…and panic…but then strangely enough the actual email informed me that my ‘flight was delayed by two hours’. I am still not sure if the airline wanted to knock me so far down with the subject that I was delighted with a two hour delay…or whether this was just a typing error. Either way it worked as I found myself delighted it was only a delay…and relieved I made it home.
I was in the mid-west USA for a global meeting. An opportunity for an expanded team to consider, create and review strategy. An opportunity for an expanded group of colleagues to meet for the first time in person…an opportunity to learn about – and listen to – each other…and to see what we could create together.
I always enjoy these opportunities. I get energy from meeting and talking with new people. I enjoy discussing and thinking about topics and projects, issues and opportunities that I have not thought about before. I am excited to make new friends.
The meeting had great diversity of background, skill sets, training and qualifications. There were people in the room with long careers in contract research and people with long careers in pharmaceutical companies. There were finance experts, commercial leaders, scientists and operational leaders. Most everyone in the room was from the US – but there were at least a couple of us ‘jet-lagged Europeans’.
I have thought a great deal about diversity over the years…and not just whilst sat wide awake at my desk in my hotel room in the US at 4 o’clock in the morning. This last week I thought about it more in the context of how it feels.
Everyone in our meeting had a defined set of experiences. For example, I have well over 25 years (scary I know) experience of working in a pharmaceutical company and just over two years of working in a CRO (exciting I know).
Our experiences define our beliefs. What we have done, seen and participated in, tells us what we believe. Our beliefs are based on our experiences. And of course what we do in any situation – or what we ‘believe’ is the right thing to do in any given situation – is dictated by our beliefs. Doing or saying anything that goes against what we believe…is difficult. Very difficult.
So diversity can be defined as having individuals in a team who have very different experiences…and thereby very different beliefs. This diversity will frequently manifest at key moments…moments of decision or moments of agreement to action.
Inclusion (very much related to diversity) will be our collective ability to hear, understand and accept these beliefs of others…at these same key decision moments. The counter logic is also apparent. Not hearing, or not accepting, those beliefs from others is not including…and will not feel good to those others. The challenge presented by diversity can be as tough as the opportunity is large since – almost by definition – those beliefs we hear will be counter to our own.
At our meeting last week we benefitted from diverse experiences and beliefs. We identified opportunities derived from those different beliefs. And as we agree our actions we have potential to achieve not just more but better.
Better is good. Diversity is better.