On February 12, 1950, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Robert S. Marcus, a beloved friend in grief over the loss of his child to polio. It read,
“A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. She experiences herself, her thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical illusion of her consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.”
2,500 years earlier, when Buddha, Aesop, and Cyrus the Great were considered some of the century’s most notable celebrities, the smallpox virus emerged and spread around the world and claimed at least 300 million lives. A vaccine was discovered in 1796, when Edward Jenner shared his unique point of view that milkmen who had been inoculated for cowpox did not show any symptoms of smallpox. His inclusive perspective led to the solution for our lifelong protection from smallpox, a contribution humans continue to benefit from today.
As French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne observed, “There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.”
We must not miss our privilege to unlearn stale patterns and confront limited narratives in these uncertain times. Diversity and inclusion programs have an unprecedented opportunity to champion a “we” agenda and serve the reunion of humanity. If we do not act out of intention, we may compromise the future. She demands our attention over our afterthoughts, our empathy over our assumptions, and a dignified re-perception of each other, as equal and unique, unique, unique expressions of humanity in cooperation for the connectivity of our whole.
Each one of us is called to step up, and into the light of our privilege to participate in a cohesive narrative of our greatest collective intention: Symphony. This is a true north that serves our humanity and inspires the resuscitation of our individual and organizational latent superpowers–our unique complexities and idiosyncrasies–as our greatest resource, in preparing for a future that we do not know. “Today, we have the necessary technologies to address all human problems,” Indian yogi and author Sadhguru says. “All that is missing is an inclusive consciousness.”
So how do we get started? It is simple, and we can all play within these three “mindful keys” to practicing symphony in our organizations and communities.
Be aware of your language and its impact on inclusion
Words are the most powerful force available to humanity, and during these times, we are tasked to confront the words we’re using when talking about diversity and inclusion. We are also called to remember that inclusion is not about making room in the portrait for that “diverse other,” but observing instead that the portrait is incomplete without “all of us” and adjusting the resonance of our invitation accordingly.
“Diversity” translates to discord in a range of different elements. “Symphony” translates to cooperation in a range of different elements. Diversity is a memory of an old world we’ve left behind. Symphony is a vision of a new world we are building. Together.
Reflect and refocus
Change your focus from what job you have and what role you play to ask yourself who you help and what problems you solve.
Symphony requires the hard work of a mindful refocus from the organizational indifference of meeting diversity targets to a new language of showing up for freedom for all.
As Kahlil Gibran said, “Work is love made visible. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day.”
Build your awareness to perceive inclusion, not as a charitable opportunity but rather a necessary part of every organization’s innovation and relevance.
The broader the scale of inclusion, the more powerful an organization’s influence and impact will be during this new age, where workplaces are evolving from physical spaces to states of mind.
Inclusion is a precursor to an organization’s edge, and its adaptive capacity to deal with rapid change. Like never before, the effectiveness and uniqueness of the perception of an organization’s people has become its crown jewels in today’s new digital economy.
Inclusion is no longer affirmative action. It is necessary action.
Oshoke Abalu is cofounder of Love & Magic Company, a tech-forward, inclusive-innovation consultancy, focused on transforming startups and corporations alike into what they call “beloved” organizations. Their tagline? The Khalil Gibran verse, “Work is love made visible.”