Dr. Uma Gupta Says That Workplace Diversity Begins With Self

By Selena Templeton

Dr. Uma Gupta kicked this seminar off with a TED Talk-worthy session about how diversity in the workplace begins with each individual.

The word “diversity” seems to have become synonymous with “gender,” but it’s about so much more than just hiring more women in the workplace. The human brain actually thrives on diversity and yet we have become creatures of comfort – so we eat the same food without really tasting it, hang out with the same people who don’t challenge our points of view, and perform the same activities which puts us on autopilot.

Not only does a diversity of ideas, experiences, foods, conversations, etc., make us feel alive, but Dr. Gupta says that scientific research has shown that the chances of getting Alzheimer's is reduced when your brain is stimulated by new things on a regular basis. We can do this by continuously seeking to increase:

  1. our learning opportunities
  2. our self awareness
  3. our attention spans

Dr. Gupta took suggestions from the lively audience for simple things you can do to strengthen and feed the brain, and added her own ideas (the last four, it should be noted), such as:

  • Learn a new language

  • Travel to new places (even in your own city)

  • Meditate

  • Exercise – and do different exercises

  • Move the cutlery in your kitchen from one drawer to another every once in awhile (your family may be annoyed now, but when your mind is as sharp as a tack in old age, they’ll thank you)

  • Get dressed in reverse order to how you usually put your clothes on

  • Read magazines that are completely different from your typical interest

  • Brush your teeth with your other hand (it’s messy, but you’ll definitely be very present)

And we need to do this in the workplace, too (not the getting dressed part…):

  • Conduct meetings standing up

  • Shorten meetings by fifteen minutes

  • Rearrange the furniture in your office

  • Take someone from a different department out to lunch and ask them what they do

Some of these suggestions may seem silly or inconvenient, but you are guaranteed not to go on autopilot when you are performing them. Autopilot behavior leads to conformity, which makes you think that everything is okay – and therefore you stop questioning things. Learning something new actually changes the structure of your brain, and regularly stimulating the brain encourages diverse thinking. This makes it easier to see things from a different point of view, solve problems and even ask new questions.

Knowing is not the same as doing. Dr. Gupta reminds us that diversity in the workplace is only possible when there’s diversity in our individual lives.

About Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is the Column Editor for the Equal Respect column on ITSPmagazine.

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