Diversity and Inclusion is more than having people of different demographics in a group. It is also about having the resulting diversity of perspectives included in the decision-making and action of the group in a fundamental way.
I’ve had this experience lately, and it demonstrated to me both why it can be hard and why it’s so important. I’ve been working on a project where I’m the individual contributor doing the bulk of the work. This isn’t because there’s a big problem or conflict; instead it’s something I feel needs my personal touch. Once the project is complete, I’m happy to describe it with specifics. For now, I’ll describe it generally.
There’s a decision to be made. I connected with the person I most wanted to be comfortable with the idea to make sure it sounded good. I checked with our outside attorney just in case there was something I should know. I checked with the group of people who are most closely affected and would lead the decision and implementation if we proceed. I received lots of positive response.
Then one last person checked in with me from my first level of vetting and spoke up. He’s sorry for the delay, etc but has concerns. He wants us to explore a bunch of different options before deciding if we’ll go forward at all, and if so how.
At first I had that sinking feeling of “Oh bother, look at this. I am so sure we should do this and now there’s all this extra work and time and maybe change. Ugh!” I got up and walked around a bit and did a few thing that put me in a positive frame of mind. Then I realized — we had added this person to the group for two reasons. One, he’s awesome — both creative and effective. Second, he has a different perspective. We say we value that different perspective. We often seek out his opinion precisely because of that perspective.
This is the first time his perspective has pushed me to do more, or to do something differently, or perhaps even prevent me from something that I think I want to do. So this is the first time the different perspective is doing more than reinforcing what seemed right to me.
That lead me to think “OK, got to love those different perspectives” a little ruefully. But as I’ve been thinking about it I’ve come to internalize the value and to appreciate this perspective. I expect the end result will be more deeply thought out than I had planned. And it will take me longer to get there. But the end result will have investigated some key assumptions I started with. It will be better thought out, and better able to respond to challenges. It will be stronger.
I still can’t say I’m looking forward to the extra work. But I am looking forward to a decision that has a much stronger foundation. And I’m looking forward to the extra learning I’ll be doing, which I believe will bring ongoing value beyond this particular project.
I want to build Mozilla into an example of what a trustworthy organization looks like. I also want to build Mozilla so that it reflects experience from our global community and isn’t living in a geographic or demographic bubble. Having great people be part of a diverse Mozilla is part of that. Creating a welcoming environment that promotes the expression and positive reaction to different perspectives is also key. As we learn more and more about how to do this we will strengthen the ways we express our values in action and strengthen our overall effectiveness.