The famed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. He dreamt that one day, “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” He understood that the acknowledgment, embrace and celebration of diversity would benefit our society in positive, deep and meaningful ways.
The Medici family of 14th Century Florence – sometimes referred to as the House of Medici or Famiglia de Medici – rose to prominence for its position in banking and politics. From a business perspective, an important component of the family’s legacy, as detailed in Frans Johansson’s 2004 book, The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Culture, is the way that it brought diversity – diversity of thought, of culture, of expertise, of experience – to bear in order to drive the Renaissance. In the manner of the Medicis, Johansson encourages his readers to “randomly combine concepts” which, in turn, will “ignite an explosion of ideas.” Through the years, the family invited artists, scientists, mathematicians, architects and other great thinkers – the likes of da Vinci and Michaelangelo – of their times to come together for the frequent exchange of ideas. Despite their competing interests, backgrounds and areas of expertise, they joined one another in the spirit of collaboration, exploration and advancement.
Diversity driven innovation is important as we each take a critical look at our personal networks. Is yours comprised of people just like you? What are your contacts’ unique backgrounds? What ideas can they bring to the table based on areas of expertise that differ from your own?
Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, write down a list of three to five individuals who come from different perspectives, different disciplines, different histories than your own. Commit to inviting them for a cup ‘o Joe to exchange ideas and see what you can collectively do to spark innovation.