February 2014

Print this page ›

February 2014

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Diversity — A Pool of Richness

Diversity. It's the buzz word that runs through management offices of theatres, industry, and academia. We need to be more diverse! USITT is committed to a Diversity Initiative the Board intends to be broader than the assumption that diversity is about race. In the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, an article ran that can help explain the Institute's focus on diversity.

The Center for Talent Innovation has identified two types of diversity. The first, inherent diversity, is what we typically think of when we hear "diversity campaign." Inherent diversity includes race, gender, or sexual orientation. These types of diversity are more visible and therefore more in our focus. The second diversity has been labeled acquired diversity. This kind of diversity comes from life experience. While inherent diversity can lead to certain life experiences, acquired diversity makes the mix deeper.

Acquired diversity comes from shared experiences. Economic background is an acquired diversity. Life skills from travel or living abroad or in another region of one nation is an acquired diversity. This second category of diversity brings to light the essence of USITT's commitment to diversity. It is so much more than just the "way we were born."

Diversity is about the sum of all of our life experiences coming together to enlighten the work environment. Leaders who exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity characteristics among a group tend to have organizations that out-innovate those where people are more alike.

Diversity is very much like the mix of people in our lives. We love people like us, but if we don't get others who have different viewpoints and experiences, frankly, it gets boring quickly. That attribute of acquired diversity when paired with inherent diversity provides a whole new dimension. Think of the life experiences people bring to the table as more diversity. Consider something as simple as those who grew up with mass transit not knowing how to drive versus those who grew up learning to drive farm equipment as soon as they were tall enough. That brings some different perspectives.

This isn't to say that we can ignore inherent diversity because we have plenty of acquired. But it does help us see that, in many environments, there is a depth of diversity we can strive for to bring a richness to the group. When you start looking at the two categories of diversity together, there is a deeper, richer experience available.

I have a friend who has been to several job interviews as "the black candidate." They got so stuck on inherent diversity, I wonder if they ever discovered he is the candidate who has lived in many different places and worked in everything from new plays to large events who happens to be black. That is the combined diversity that will really impact an organization that hires him. Of course, so does his perspective as a person of color.

But we can't ignore the inherent to focus on the acquired any more than ignoring the acquired to focus on the inherent. Rather, we need to explore both to see how rich of a team we can surround ourselves with.

David Grindle

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail David at david@usitt.org.