As an Inclusion Facilitator, I view the world through the lens of inclusion, believing it to be the DNA of everything - from organizations and society to life and nature. Inclusion is about building upon the strengths of differences, weaving them together to create something beautiful, dynamic, and effective. This perspective requires looking beyond the obvious and acknowledging that nothing exists in isolation.
The following metaphors demonstrate these points but require out-of-the-box thinking. They may inspire you to see how inclusion is part of the natural order of things and increase your appreciation of the vital role differences make. They may also motivate you to increase the diversity and inclusion of your team, organization, or personal and professional network.
I realize that “snowflake” can have a pejorative connotation. It was first used in the early 1860’s when referring to anti-abolitionists in Missouri and endures today with negative connotations. This is an example of the way in which humans can take a thing of beauty and manipulate it into a distorted and ugly form that separates rather than being awe-inspiring. I prefer to focus on the exquisiteness of a snowflake as a metaphor for the importance and value of differences.
Growing up in the Northeast, I learned that every snowflake is unique. While in elementary school, we were given a magnifying glass and a piece of black paper to observe the intricacies of each flake first-hand. I was awe-struck by the intricate design of each. I also noticed that each flake had a short life-span, and quickly melted. While a single snowflake is short-lived, when billions combine, they create snowstorms with accumulations that can last for weeks. The end result is a beautiful wintry scene that conjures up fond childhood memories, is the subject of thousands of paintings and songs, and images of romantic scenes.
I have since learned that identical snowflakes can be produced in a lab. While they are beautiful, they are protected from atmospheric and meteorologic impacts outside the lab and unable to accumulate due their limited numbers. I doubt they would remain identical when exposed to the elements.
Snowflakes, when combined, create something of beauty. Similarly, when unique perspectives are appreciated and combined, they result in elegant and innovative solutions to business challenges.
Have you ever watched the interaction between dogs? Periodically, I take the time to watch the dynamic between dogs at a popular neighborhood dog park. It’s very entertaining. I noticed that once the dogs do their customary sniffing, they are off and running. Their color, breed and size are unimportant. They just want to have fun going from one dog to another; one group to another. Nothing stops them from having fun which explodes into a festive atmosphere entertaining for both dogs and humans.
I’m always captivated by a pair of dogs that have the same owners. One is a Black Lab; the other an Australian Sheep Dog. They have a routine that is a perfect example of leveraging differences.
The Lab is taller and faster than the Sheep Dog which is smaller but nimble. The owners pitch a ball; the Lab gets there first and waits with the ball in his mouth until the Sheep Dog catches up. The little fella then barks several times, jumps up, takes the ball out of the Lab’s mouth, and runs back to the owners. They wait for the Lab to get back and the game begins again. There is no end to their delight in this process. Their routine exemplifies how differences can be leveraged to enhance the outcome.
Dogs only want to have fun at the park. The more dogs, the more dynamic the experience, and the more irresistible it is for dogs and humans alike.
The moral of the tale
Imagine a team, company, or society built on our unique strengths, honored and appreciated our differences, and enjoyed each other regardless of size, physical capabilities, gender, age, or background. Think about the beauty, strength, and resilience it would create.
Inclusion is the DNA of everything in life. The metaphors are endless if you take the time to notice. We humans create the artificial separations. As a result, we limit myriad possibilities and rob ourselves and organizations of growing and flourishing.
What metaphors have you noticed lately?