You’ve heard the old adage “Birds of a feather stick together” and possibly sung these words when the Mary Wells’ classic “My Guy” plays on the radio.
And it’s true. Birds of a feather DO stick together. No one sees a random seagull flying in a flock of Canadian geese or a hummingbird chilling with an Emu.
But birds aren’t the only ones who like hanging out with physically similar counterparts. Humans are just as guilty.
Sure, we like the idea of “diversity” in theory, but in practice, study after study has shown that—if left to our own hard-wired devices—we congregate with people that look like us, think like us, and share the same interests we do.
While this type of congregating isn’t always bad, I’m sure you can see how our networks have the potential to turn into a congealed pot of sameness if we aren’t aware of our innate bias.
This week we’ll share some benefits to creating a diverse network and give you some tangible tasks to broaden your sphere of influence. You with me?
THE ADVANTAGES TO RESISTING OUR BIAS
It takes just a few minutes on Instagram or Facebook to see our proclivity for hanging out with people who are similar to us. Science calls this homophily bias—an attraction and likeness for people who appear to share common traits.
The problem is, when we succumb to this bias we miss out on some incredible collaboration, growth, and opportunities for learning.
While we know ideologically that diversity is important in our communities, networks, and workplaces, if we aren’t mindful of our innate bias, we will miss out on many advantages that a diverse network provides. Here are just 5 advantages to creating diversity in your network and in your workplace:
Diverse networks produce more innovative ideas. Just think about it—if everyone thinks like you and has similar shared experiences then it’s more difficult to produce ideas that fall outside of the box.
Diverse networks require work which spurns growth and new ideas. When your network or workplace consists of people with a wide range of backgrounds, it’s impossible to become complacent with your language, sharing of ideas, or consideration for others. In short, diverse networks create space for awkward tension. But it is this tension that leads to growth in individuals and the team while everyone problem-solves together.
Diverse networks have a broader impact. From a company’s perspective, a diverse workplace instantly gives you an advantage in the marketplace by offering products to meet a variety of consumers. In a personal network, the impact is similar. By understanding the variety of needs, passions, desires, frustrations, and challenges people face, you will be a more empathetic friend and colleague. The ability to connect with a wide range of people allows you to make a bigger impact than those who only congregate in homogenous groups.
Diverse networks are happier. Research has shown that workplaces with greater diversity report higher job satisfaction and lower turnover. The same is true in our personal networks. People enjoy being a part of groups that challenge them and excite them, which makes fostering a diverse network more satisfying.
Diverse networks produce higher profits. Many studies have shown that diverse companies deliver higher profit margins than more homogenous ones. Given the previous 4 benefits, this only makes sense. If you’re a network marketer, I’m sure you can see the benefit of drawing in people from various backgrounds and demographics.
TIPS AND TRICKS
I get it. If you’re like most of us, you aren’t consciously choosing to hang out with like-minded clones of yourself. But, the truth is, if we are going to fight against the homophily bias, we MUST make a conscious choice to engage people who are different than us.
As with most relationship-building topics—awareness is key. The more you understand what your natural tendencies are in social settings, the better you can combat it. It’s also vital to expose yourself to new ideas—we never grow if we spend our entire lives under the tutelage of one or two instructors.
For starters, here’s a quick list of some steps you can take today to expand your horizons and truly practice what we preach:
Change locations—instead of your regular grocery store and coffee shop, try a different one in another part of town.
Pick a few random topics on social media and start following 5-10 people or brands. This will expose you to new perspectives.
Subscribe to a few newsletters on a different topic.
Mute topics you already know a lot about and turn up ones you know less about.
Find and befriend people of different age demographics—in your work, at the gym, in church, at the grocery store, etc.
If you like non-fiction, try fiction. If you like fiction, try a different genre.
Join a Facebook group on a subject you’re interested in learning about—you’ll instinctively get a different perspective by joining.
Travel! Even if you don’t travel internationally, you can learn so much by visiting new towns and cities that are different from where you live.
Or, *gasp,* switch your news channel and see what’s being discussed on the other network.
Don’t be afraid to start small. By taking a few steps at a time towards broadening your network in meaningful ways, you’ll be amazed at the results.
We’d love to hear how you challenge yourself to expand your ideas and network in meaningful and diverse ways! Give us a shout in our Contact Mapping Facebook Community.