‘This I Believe’ Essay
‘The Promise of Diversity’
I believe in the promise of diversity, until now only partially delivered. I believe in the power of synergy, the mysterious process that transforms strangers and their ideas into thriving societies and productive enterprises. It seems to me that the greatest challenge facing mankind today is to harness the power of fusing the best and brightest from everywhere at every level: the individual, the town, the city, national, regional, and international. Nature has shown us the miracle of biodiversity, that spontaneous order whereby countless plants and animals, left alone, harmonize and thrive. It is time to apply that miracle to mankind and its institutions. We must rectify the irony that the planet’s smartest creatures, perhaps BECAUSE of their intelligence, cannot cooperate effectively for the common good.
Free will, enshrined in the American national character, enables us to focus on a problem as if its solution depends solely upon our own efforts; the ego that goes with it blinds us to the rewards of cooperation. Sadly, our early successes in life are often linked to individual efforts, leading to the notion that single individuals, given the right tools, can make all the right decisions. Too often we understand competition as a zero-sum game instead of a mechanism for improvement and innovation. Diversity is what makes competition work FOR us rather than against us. Just ask Arnold Schwarenegger, Rudi Giuliani, or Barack Obama. The political center is back.
Diversity is not just about using talent from every race, color, creed, and gender; it is about blending disparate ideas into the precise mixes required for dealing with modern life. In the last century we witnessed the penalties of political isolation, human greed, and social intolerance. We also felt the rewards of diplomacy, generosity, and integration. We tasted the wonders of fusion cuisine, watched in awe as Tiger Woods redefined the game of golf, and danced to the hypnotic rhythms of Shakira. In this century, globalization is turning all societies into laboratories of diversity, where ideas can be generated without the historical constraints of family, tribe, clan, or ethnic identity. We can think locally, but we must act globally.
What does this say about leadership? We cannot get from here to there without leaders who have internalized the principles of diversity and synergy. The leadership style required for success today is a blend of vertical and horizontal thinking that channels brilliant ideas to where they are needed most, at precisely the right time. Diversity breeds strength and vitality in all things. I believe that the winning formula for our age will be to bring together decision makers willing to listen, with all citizens willing to help them formulate the endless stream of decisions needed to master the awesome challenges we face.
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