Fingerprints and Dental Patterns are Diverse, Right?

I don’t watch much TV anymore, too many other distractions.  But anyone who watches shows like Law & Order knows some fundamental things about the human body. Our fingerprints are unique, as are our teeth – specifically the exact configuration of our teeth. Before DNA tests were all the rage, fingerprints and dental records were the best direct tie to actual humans that an investigator had.

When working with some people in my organization recently on the subject of diversity, it was clear they were all caught up in the wrapper – the outward appearance we all have. I worked with a manager once who would be very happy if she had a visibly diverse team, even if they came from nearly the same set of developmental experiences, like something close to what she had. In fact, her biggest test in selection tends to be focused on how closely the candidate’s answers match her own experience.

Yes, you could walk into a meeting of 100 employees, and make a quick assessment of their diversity in terms of age, race, and gender. Imagine you walk into this meeting, and quickly see that there seems to be gender balance, that there are a mix of racial or ethnic backgrounds that approximate the community, and that the apparent ages are also spread out. So what? Do you know what positions each of these people hold? What departments they are from? Do you know how many of the employees under 30 have been there for less than 6 months, because they quickly learn that the progression system is broken?

Before I even joined HR, I was concerned about outward prejudice and discrimination I was seeing in the workplace. I encountered it myself in an interview, when, at 28 years old, I was asked why I wasn’t married – yet. The question itself was one thing, but adding “yet” was the deal breaker that let me know this was not a place for me to work. The interviewer had told me about his three marriages, so I asked him when he planned to get it right.

No two people are alike. We are degrees apart when it comes to measuring diversity. If you work on the wrapper, you’ll get it wrong. You need to understand and value diversity in a whole new way. And that’s the problem I’ve seen. That many leaders have spent a lot of their career aligning processes, making sure things get done consistently the same way. No room for inventiveness or creativity or challenge. This is how we do it. If you think like me, we’ll get along fine. If you think like me but look different, that’s even better. I want a diverse team. Ugh.

I don’t want unique fingerprints that go with common brainwaves. I want to see brainwaves collide in conflict to bring new solutions and innovation that drive our businesses to new levels of performance. And I want my HR peers to challenge their businesses to learn to manage THAT kind of diversity.  In my lifetime. Please.

5 Responses to Fingerprints and Dental Patterns are Diverse, Right?

  1. Enjoying your blog – lol: “When are you going to get it right?” — hitting the “yet” ball back.

    I’m actually here looking for some diverse points of view to link as Related Content on my ADD-focused blog, and got distracted reading your blog posts. Got here trolling for backlinks for an older post entitled ABOUT Activation — Intertia’s Handmaiden (preparing to expand the series.)

    The trail led first to your HR/physics posts (nice!) – landed here, searching for “diversity.” I like your take on things – LOVE your last 2 paragraphs. Taking advantage of serendipity to ask for some advice.

    I am leaving this comment wondering where the NEURO-diverse fit in the HR world these days. Any training on how to manage these guys? (NOT with “tough love” and/or carrot & stick approaches – OR from the “give ’em their heads” school of thought.)

    I ask because, in the past year, a friend finally recognized enough of his life in what I do that he asked me if maybe I thought he might . . . be . . . have . . .

    Couldn’t help it – if I’d just taken a sip of coffee, he would have been SOAKED as the guffaws exploded from my gut.

    Less than a year later he got dx’d, medicated, sleep study & what was needed there, etc. — was moving forward VERY nicely, albeit, still playing catch-up. (Promoted rapidly at work, his functional skills were quickly proving themselves more and more inadequate for rapidly rising accountabilities – thus his question to me)

    He felt he had no choice but to “disclose” because the insurance forms cleared through HR — he didn’t believe that leaving them to make things up about rising expenditures of the type he was incurring was wise. HR at least pretended to do the right thing and say the right words – but was “hands off” once the management team entered the picture.

    I could use his MANAGER as my antagonist in a novel showing how to do everything wrong with neurodiversity and what happens when you do – right down to the thumb screws. Shut him RIGHT down – the more he tried to explain what would work better, and/or negotiate room to actually DO his job, the more M tightened the screws, more “exceptions management” black-and-white reporting time, more often, more formats. (Measure and document when you don’t know what else to do! Gotta’ love b-school!)

    Friend got more behind — run this around a couple of times and it’s easy to see the lights of the oncoming train. As they say, “The beatings will stop when moral improves.”

    They are now paying him disability, he’s recovering from a train wreck (metaphorically) and his IT team is even MORE overworked than before. Didn’t HAVE to be that way.

    *Everybody* dropped balls that would have taken just a bit of brain-based implications awareness to juggle relatively easily, to everyone’s benefit. Nothing I could advise “from the outside” made any difference to the case they were clearly building – CYA time, legally.

    The company is a huge, well-known global concern, and my friend *was* a rapidly rising IT star with good-to-impressive performance reviews – now totally demoralized, totally structureless.

    This is NOT a rare occurrence, btw, just the most recent in my personal arsenal of examples.

    Is this endemic?

    ESPECIALLY in IT (where, formally dx’d or not, as many as 75% are ADDers — high numbers with sales professionals & creatives as well), these “outside the box,” seeming trouble-makers from the linear thinkers’ point of view – managed appropriately – are almost ALL potential superstars who will work their butts off for you. Any awareness of that in corporate America?

    Other than David Rock (execs, primarily), is anybody spreading the brain-based management meme in the corporate trenches?

    Personal question: I would like to open the door to change re: this issue, beginning with my friend’s soon-to-be-former corporation — with an eye toward doing a bit of corporate training/education. Have the background, can handle the ethics/confidentiality issues — WHO/where would you suggest as a possible place to initiate the conversation? My gut says *not* HR, but I don’t want to start out stepping on toes.


    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – cofounder of the ADD Coaching field –
    (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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