This month, our nation celebrated Independence Day. This day symbolizes what this country stands for and what makes it so extraordinary – pioneering spirit, diversity, and optimism through change. As an immigrant, I feel fortunate to have the freedom and opportunities that this country has given me. America gave me a voice. It also taught me that when you have the privilege of having a voice, you also have the responsibility to use it.
Digital has given an extraordinary voice to so many Americans who are speaking out against hatred, violence and injustice. As human beings, we are wired to fear anything that’s different from us. We fear the unknown and the unfamiliar. We fear people whose beliefs are different from our own. We fear ideas that challenge our way of thinking. We fear change that requires us to give up what we have known. Yet it’s these very differences that help us transform, grow and innovate. And the differences that separate us are not greater than the values that unite us.
As business leaders, we are in a unique position to be the change agents that shape the narrative for our future. In the past 10 years, we’ve seen the results of corporate initiatives create a more diverse workforce and more economic opportunities for everyone. But the landscape for the next 10 years is dramatically different – a world that is technologically advanced, geopolitically charged, economically challenging, and socially conflicted. What role will we play in this context? What impact can we create beyond generating business results? How do we take a bigger view of the opportunity we have as individuals and the type of mark we leave?
Here are 3 things we can do:
(1) Don’t be the gatekeeper, be the door opener
Reframe your role, go beyond corporate initiatives and become a champion for change. Create a platform for new ideas, new products and new methods. Level the playing field and let untapped opportunities emerge. Be the catalyst for innovation who makes the first move towards change. Challenge the status quo and your own unconscious biases. Enlighten colleagues internally and drive accountability within your organizations. Connect change to real business impact and let commercial success validate the ideology.
(2) Don’t be a bystander, be the voice
Create visibility for what matters and let your voice be heard. Invite discussions on topics that no one wants to address. Don’t be afraid to have the courageous conversations. Visibility creates awareness, and awareness leads to acceptance and that’s what creates a new normal. When your organization is diverse, when your products create impact, when your culture is empowering – you are creating hope for those trapped in the shadows. Express yourself and be the role model for others.
(3) Don’t dwell on pigmentation, make it about new perspectives
There is something deeper and more profound that happens when you surround yourself with people who look, act, and think differently than you do. Those that embrace otherness in people are better equipped to accept the “otherness” that innovation represents. Diversity and innovation demand similar attributes – openness to the unfamiliar, acceptance of the unknown, excitement for change. Diversity isn’t a feel-good thing or a box to check. Diversity is about accepting otherness and differences in perspectives so that the most powerful ideas prevail.
Let us choose to be the light. Let us remove barriers and use our collective voices to shape a new narrative.