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8. The Death of DEI
  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

ReWilding the Idea Table

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

I recently sat down to see A Life on Our Planet, a documentary about the state of our collective home, by the world-famous natural historian Sir David Attenborough (the film is currently streaming on Netflix). It is quite a wonderful piece of work, one he calls his Witness Statement. It follows his life on this earth over the past 93 years and chronicles changes that have occurred in his presence. It is a breathtaking journey through the decades, one that focuses on how we have contributed to the destruction of our planet, but also how we can reverse some of the effects.

I was quite taken back the panoramic view Sir Attenborough lays out. At the end of this hour-and-thirty-minute journey his affirmation and conclusion are quite simple: we need to ReWild our planet if we are to save ourselves. Over his 93 years we seem to have simplified the planet, removed the very existences of differences, depleting its biodiversity, and replacing it with a cohesiveness that is Not natural. We have manipulated vast areas of land to serve only our purposes, often at the cost of many other living entities. We have, in essence, compartmentalized our earth, something that goes against the very nature of Nature.

We, as living animals, are interconnected, and our interconnectedness needs the complexity of existences if we are to continue existing. I often mention this in my talks, that the inevitability of differences is what moves our world forward. Sir Attenborough says that if we are to reverse some of these negative consequences, we must bring back our biodiversity – we must ReWild our collective home, our planet Earth.

Idea Table

One of the strategies I champion for the workspace, and for my personal life, is an Idea Table; a specific place where ideas are invited, listened to, and considered. Many companies adopt some sort of Idea Table, be it as open meetings held a few times a year, or the suggestions boxes often placed next to the HR department. When I am advising on the matter, I state that for the Idea Table to work best there needs to be a kind of biodiversity in the process. For a long time only very specific individuals had a seat at the Idea Table, creating a homogeneous make up that by its very nature moved against the goals of sustainability. I mention to my clients that in many of the same way nature relies on biodiversity for its sustainability, so too do great ideas rely on Diversity and Equity to create their sustainability.

So How do we Re-Wild our Idea Table?

The first step is our overriding theme here at KSCC: the centralization of Diversity and Equity in our practices. Asking, how many points of differences can I have at almost every stage? When we think of the suggestions boxes placed next to the HR departments we should ask, in how many other places can this box be? Does it need to be a physical box? Does it require information to be written, or can there be other ways for someone to transmit their ideas? Have I considered every worker’s ability to participate? Of course, there are many more questions we can ask ourselves, and even after we’ve exhausted a list the work doesn’t stop there. Once I have the box ‘full’ I need to apply to same type of ‘wildness’ to the review process of those ideas. Only by moving through such methods – a kind of biodiversity of the modus – can we say we are applying the lens of sustainability to the idea/s.

It reminds of the study from Northwestern and BYU that shows that new points (of views) lead(s) to better results. ‘The researchers created groups of oldtimers—in this case, students from the same frat or sorority—and brought in newcomers with either a similar background or an unfamiliar background. The groups were then tasked with solving a murder mystery. The groups with more diverse sets of participants were more likely to correctly identify the murderer than those with uniform members. The interesting part about this is that even though the diverse groups did better, they felt less confident. Bringing in new opinions made them question themselves and their outcomes, but their outcomes were the right ones.(

The second step is asking how equitable is my selection and review process? The Equitable lens asks the question: is it Just? We can see it as a measure of the correctness in the answer, the more just for the group the more correct. It is not enough to pull some workers into the Idea Table. To truly ReWild the Idea Table we need to create a diverse enough space that will inherently hold insecurities (the kind mentioned above) but will also likely generate better ideas, reflections, and outcomes – a process that can lead us to the more ‘correct’ answer.

So, what if you are the individual tasked with doing this work? Well, by keeping the two subjects centralized in your work, Diversity and Equity, and constantly attending to their principals, you can design methods in your workspaces to forward the methods mentioned above. We must do this not only for the short-term needs of our companies and workspaces, but for collective longer-term sustainability needs of our planet.

I grew up respecting the words of those that have a longer footprint on this earth then I have. For me, Sir Attenborough’s 93 years of experience as a globetrotter give him the respect and a strong voice of reasoning to make such bold statements. When he calls for the ReWilding our Planet, and says that this is now an urgent matter, we should seriously listen. And while doing that, why not apply those messages to your idea tables too; it will benefit us all in the long run!


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