Too often, we think about diversity in relatively shallow ways – while, in fact, the true value of diversity lies in ‘diversity of thought.’ People come from a variety of backgrounds and can be described by their different ethnicities, nationalities, religions, skin colors and more.

However, these are typically surface level descriptors that fail to get to the true value of diversity. If we want to be serious about the value of diversity, we need to get to a deeper level – that is, to develop a genuine respect for one another and value each other’s opinions and points of view. To be open and tolerant in encouraging freedom of expression for one and all.

In fact, there is a great opportunity that lies ahead. Too often our national debate is characterized by divisiveness and bitter debate – with each side becoming increasingly entrenched and emotionally invested in their position. Exacerbated no doubt by the confirmation bias of social media, advocates on TV and people in our personal networks – almost acting as an echo chamber to validate our views. The opportunity, however, is to transcend all this. To broaden our exposure, to value the opinions of others, to include diverse thoughts – and while not necessarily agreeing, to honestly evaluate – and I suspect, quite often, find nuggets of value and truth in these disparate views.

We all, of course, are shaped by our background and experiences. We develop paradigms, or ways of looking at the world. So very often, we can be looking at exactly the same set of circumstances and develop diametrically opposing views or observations. Rather than dig our heels in and loudly proclaim the righteousness of our insights, it seems that the better option is first to probe and understand how another person might actually arrive at their differing viewpoint. This is precisely how learning and a deeper understanding occur.

Diversity of thought is such a cornerstone of innovation, progress, and societal advancement. It allows us to enjoy a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and experiences and challenge conventional wisdom. It delves into the realm of intellectual diversity, which is far more valuable and impactful in fostering our genuine understanding and progress.

By embracing diverse perspectives, we create an environment where constructive debate, collaboration, and innovation thrive, leading to more robust and effective solutions. In contrast, focusing solely on superficial diversity risks reducing individuals to mere representatives of their identity groups, overlooking the rich tapestry of experiences, beliefs, and ideas that shape their worldview.

As we go forward, let’s challenge ourselves to embrace ‘true diversity.’ Let’s get past the stereotypical usages of the concept that pervade so much of the conversation and instead, engage in civil discourse – respecting the opinions of others. But, in doing so, let’s also go one more step. Let’s consistently take the initiative to delve below the surface, probe and truly understand how others are actually developing their divergent points of view. When we do so, we will be able to enjoy the benefits that ‘true diversity’ – ‘diversity of thought’ can provide.