Which Do You Value More - Conformity or Diversity?

It's been a busy week around the three geekdom. Although I couldn't attend the ILTA 09 meeting in Washington DC, I monitored it religiously (via the #ILTA09 tag) and helped my boss prep for her back-to-back presentations on Records Management and Library Services contract negotiations. We had a Westlaw blowup mid-week, and I talked with my local Westlaw Library Relations Manager (LRM) yesterday and we had a nice discussion about what the LRM's are doing to work with law librarians. So, getting on the bus this morning, I thought that I didn't have anything to blog about other than TGIF!! But, as usual, I was wrong.
I mentioned a few post ago that I was reading Sir Ken Robinson's book The Element. As I was reading it this morning, I read one of those sentences that makes you sit up and say "Wow!" (If I were a child of the 60's I'd have said "whoa... that's deep, man.")
"... conformity has a higher value than diversity."
Although Ken (he lives in America now, so I refuse to call him 'Sir' Ken) was talking about primary and secondary schools, this could actually apply to many facets of life, and I'm tying it to some of the conformity we have in law firms.
There are a lot of us that are pushing Enterprise 2.0 tools within the law firms. The reason many of us believe this will be a great resource for everyone in the firm is the fact that it gives a voice to everyone. Conformity equals the standard monthly or quarterly meeting, diversity equals wikis, blogs and other social media tools that allow you to put your ideas forth at any time.
Another standard idea within law firms is the establishing of a committee to plan how the firm will handle an issue. Committees are made up of individuals who represent various divisions within the firm (Partners, Associates, Counsel, C-Levels, Directors, Managers, etc.) and even each of those represent certain practice areas or departments. Committees equal conformity, Teams equal diversity. When you set up a committee the members are focused first on how to best represent themselves, their individual departments or groups, their peers, then the firm - in that order. Teams are set up to go the opposite way. Look at the process in a more holistic fashion -- how it affects the many, rather than the few.
Those seven words made me sit up and think about how we can look at what we are doing in a different way. Enterprise 2.0 tools and Teams are just two examples. The next time you approach a project or think about the process you use to perform your tasks, ask yourself are you valuing conformity or are you valuing diversity?

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Richard Leiter said...

You should read "Wisdom of the Crowds," next. It will make you go, "Whoa, that's deep, man...." for real. In a peculiar way, crowd research shows that crowds work best when it's members are autonomous and independent. Not only that, but crowds consistently out perform experts. Great book.

Greg Lambert said...

Thanks Richard. I just downloaded it to my Kindle and will start reading it tonight!
The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki


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