Volume 17 Number 11 - November 5, 2019


We know that the vast majority of Americans only speak one language, and some would suggest many of us don’t speak that one very well. I know many people hesitant to travel because “what about the language problem?”

I just returned from Portugal and Morocco. I assure you I do not speak Portuguese or Arabic in its Moroccan form, or any other form for that matter. Nor do I speak French, a primary Moroccan language. Yet I had absolutely no problem in either country.

In my over 60 countries visited, yes there have been moments of laughter when attempts at communication turned out differently than I expected, but no communication problems of any import.

How can that be?

Because the rest of the world speaks multiple languages, with English often one of them. The average Moroccan I met spoke 3 languages with most speaking 5. Most Portuguese spoke at least two, and many spoke 4 or 5. And hand signals work when there is no common language.

Many friends and colleagues asked if I felt safe in Morocco. Extremely.

It is a warm welcoming country. Though Muslim, it is more like the United States than it is like Saudi Arabia. Synagogues and churches are often near mosques. Alcohol is for sale everywhere. Attire varies widely.

We hear a lot about the value of diversity these days. Some interpret that as adding a female or African American to the HR department. As Bob Uecker once said, “just a bit outside!”

Customers often do not look or think like you do. They often have very different experiences from yours. The same is true of suppliers, investors, and the community at large.

It is silly to pretend that any one of us knows what everyone else thinks or values. In the case of business, it is beyond silly. It is disastrous.

The world does not consist of uneducated savages living far beneath American standards. Yes, priorities vary around the world, but the US no longer leads numerous important metrics.

As the leader of a manufacturing business, it is important to respect the diversity of the world. It is important to accept that people in all countries have brains and work hard. It is imperative to gain facts rather than rely on preconceived notions.

Luckily, our communities are becoming increasingly diverse, making it easier to learn about others. Data shows a strong correlation, some argue cause and effect, between increasing diversity in leadership and profitability.

If you look around your organization and see clusters of people who look like you with relatively similar backgrounds, and other clusters that don’t look like you and have different background from you, you don’t have diversity. You have tribes.

Diversity is more than a collection of tangential tribes.

I don’t have all the answers; heck I don’t even know all the questions. The same is true for you. And for all individuals. But collectively? With enough diversity of background and thinking we can solve darn near anything.

It is worth the effort to connect and interact with people unlike ourselves. I choose the pleasure of traveling the world to supplement local opportunities.

Consider for a moment what limited diversity might be costing your business.

It is not about quotas. It is about thinking. Every business can use more of that.

The Starting Pistol

Islamic Proverb:
"A lot of different flowers make a bouquet."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"While one flower is beautiful, a bouquet is so much more."

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