Why I Want to Work With People Who Are Not Like Me

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“This code isn’t working. I’ve been looking at it and looking at it, but can’t see what’s wrong,” I’ve said.

“Maybe it needs a new set of eyes. Want me to take a look?” said colleagues who are not like me.

“That’d be great. Thanks!”

Shortly thereafter, from their different perspectives, they found my error, and the world was better.

That’s why I want to work with people who are not like me.

A lot has been written about diversity in the workplace. For me, diversity has always been the obvious choice because I know that if I’m in a room of clones (or people who are just like me: age, gender, background, went to the same school, like the same everything, etc.), we’ll all see things the same way.

Think of it like this: In an office full of “Star Wars” fans, the solution will be to use “the force”. In an office full of “Star Trek” fans, the solution will be based on logic, which clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one). However neither of these skills will help tell a touchback from a touchdown while working on a football website.

So I want to work with people with different backgrounds: “Star Wars” fans, “Star Trek” fans, and football fans. People who went to school someplace else or maybe didn’t go to school at all. People who grew up in a different part of town, or the world. People of different races, ages, sexuality, political affiliation…a diverse team with people who will have different perspectives rather than a team of clones with a singular, shared point of view.

It’s like the anecdote about the truck that got stuck under a bridge. The driver tries to force it out. A small army of engineers plans to take the bridge apart. A gang of construction workers announces they will dig under the truck. Then a little girl hops off her bike and suggests deflating the tires to lower the truck. Everyone gasps, realizing that she’s right. They deflate the tires, back out easily, re-inflate the tires, and the truck goes on its way.

Why did the little girl have a different perspective? Maybe because she was little she had different ways of relating to height than tall adults. Maybe she recently inflated her bike’s tires and saw her bike rise, and applied that to the truck.

In reality, I once worked with an engineer who got his position based on experience, not a degree. When faced with a problem, I pulled out my calculator to start finding a by-the-book solution. My colleague, however, quickly and boldly presented a very detailed, yet unorthodox, solution. My book smarts were trumped by his hands-on experience.

Along these lines we have worked hard to round up a diverse team of developers here at Hook & Loop. We have “Star Wars” fans and “Star Trek” fans, and even <gasp!> people who don’t care for either. And the result has been inspiring, with lots of new ideas birthed from instinct, wrapped in logic, yet still rooted in the reality of expectations and functionality.
We’re accomplishing some great things, and want to keep our mix mixed up and successful.

Diversity isn’t just hollow idealism. It makes sense, and every day I see proof that it’s the right way to do business.