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Platinum Rule in a Horoscope

17 December 2009 Leave a comment

I read my horoscope every day . . . of course I believe it only when it tells me good things are on the way. Yesterday it had this to say: “How well do you respect the values of others? It’s easy to think that your own values and your own way of doing things is the only way, and certainly the right way.”

That’s a perfect description of the ethnocentric (monocultural) orientations of the DMIS (of which I’ve spoken in earlier posts – and don’t despair, I will eventually get around to telling you all about it).

The horoscope went on to advise me to adopt a Platinum Rule orientation to life: “Make an inner resolve to better respect other people’s values, even if they are different from yours.” Georgia Nicols, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now, about that tall, dark stranger I was supposed to meet . . .

Categories: Musings on diversity

The Illusion of Universality

16 December 2009 Leave a comment

I was listening to the last of Robert Harris’ 20 Pieces of Music that Changed the World on The Sunday Edition on the CBC over the weekend and he made a point that illuminates the illusion of universality. He was talking about the physics of music, octaves, and the ‘perfect fifth’.

Wikipedia identifies the perfect fifth as “belonging to the group of perfect intervals (perfect fourth, octave) so called because of their simple pitch relationships and their high degree of consonance.[1] Perfect intervals are also defined as those natural intervals whose inversions are also natural intervals, where natural, as opposed to altered, designates those intervals between a base note and the major diatonic scale starting at that note (for example, the intervals from C to C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, with no sharps or flats)”.

I confess to having no idea what that means, but the perfect intervals are physical phenomena ‘The idealized pitch ratio of a perfect fifth is 3:2 — meaning that the upper note makes three vibrations in the same amount of time that the lower note makes two”. Harris’ point was that although we believe that something so fundamental to our (Western) understanding of music, based on the physics of vibration, must surely be universal to musical systems – it is not. The Chinese 5-note tonal scale has no concept of  perfect intervals, nor does Arabic music.

How does any of this relate to diversity, you might be asking yourself, with some impatience and agitation? The mainstream (in Canada) is so Golden Rule oriented that we believe that despite our surface differences in food, dress, customs, and even religion, deep down we all want the same things from life; that our shared humanity trumps cultural differences. Unfortunately, when we operate from a Golden Rule orientation, we believe that if only we treat everyone as we want to be treated, everyone will be happy.

That belief is the basis of our workplace diversity policies. We believe that if we ‘level the playing field’ by putting transparent systems in place everyone will be able to participate equally. But for people from many cultures, the idea of approaching a supervisor or other superior to have a frank and open conversation about some issue that is bothering us or some behaviour (especially if the culprit is the supervisor him or herself) that we find offensive is about as appealing as open-heart surgery without anaesthetic, and about as possible.

In order to move from the mere fact of organisational diversity (which is merely a circumstance, not an achievement) to workplaces and organisations that recognise, welcome, integrate and harness the energy of diversity, we need to move from what Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (the DMIS) calls the ethnocentric (or monocultural) stage of Minimization to a more inclusive, ethnorelative (or polycultural) orientation to difference.

How would that matter? More about the DMIS and moving from diversity to integration in my next post.

Categories: Musings on diversity

Welcome to Platinum Rule Diversity Consulting’s new blog!

16 December 2009 Leave a comment

My first foray into the world of blogging. Next I’ll be getting a cellphone.

The front page of the Dec 4th Nikkei Business Online was entirely devoted to immigration, along with another 3 inside – under a big banner saying “Immigration Yes!”Interestingly, the first heading under the banner read ‘economic effects of immigration not without their downsides’.

I’ve often thought that demographics, not climate change, was the biggest challenge facing the Japanese. With the population aging, limited forays into immigration, like the generational returnee program that brought a large number of the descendants of emigrants to Peru and Brazil ‘home’ couldn’t really put a dent in the impending labour shortage (recognising that it takes a generation or two for immigrants to become acclimated enough to really fit in seamlessly). The only realistic solution is large-scale immigration.

Germany’s experience with ‘gastarbeiters’ who refused to go home made the Japanese very nervous about allowing temporary workers into their economy and their lives. That time has come and gone, however, and Japan needs to start consciously planning for an influx that won’t be going home; planning that should place as much importance on cross-cultural preparations as to health-related, educational, and bureaucratic infrastructure and to housing.

Categories: Musings on diversity