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Diversity Is Getting Invited To The Dance; Inclusion Is Being Asked To Dance

Diversity is viewed by many in the business world, as a hiring practice. Inclusion, on the other hand, is about integrating new hires, once they are employed. Inclusion is really important--it's where the rubber hits the road.

Inclusion is multi-faceted, which makes planning a bit easier but implementing it effectively, can be tricky. The goal of every inclusion practice or event is, of course, to encourage shared experience but who is it that we are including, and how are they being encouraged to share? What is the experience they are being asked to share?

The invitation is obviously important, but how can we get people to actually share anything with each other, after the invitation has been extended? It depends on what it is they are being asked to share, and that's where mindfulness and meditation come into play. I know you're probably scratching your head, wondering whether this time I've finally lost it, but bear with me.

How would sitting with a group--eyes closed--ever be considered to be an experience that one shares with others? The answer is surprisingly simple, though it may seem counter-intuitive to some. Clue bus: It has to do with the fact that we are all likely to be a bit uncomfortable sitting in meditation with a group of others--especially in a work/professional environment. But sharing that discomfort cuts through a lot of the differences that might otherwise get in the way.

Include diverse individuals as part of a large work project? Sure. Ask a diversity of people to lunch, and learning more about them and their interests? Of course. Organize social events intended to get diverse attendees to mingle, meet and greet members of the establishment? Got it. How about providing a mix of staff, associates, income partners and equity partners with an opportunity to sit silently with each other, eyes closed? Not as obvious, but absolutely impactful.

Whether the diversity of a particular group is a matter of gender, race, age, religion or status, the simple act of sitting silently together--with no agenda--at a designated day and time, for a designated period, in a designated room (approved by, and provided by the firm) can be incredibly powerful, and yes, inclusive. A genuine shared experience.

I'm not talking about anything weird or Pollyannaish. I'm talking about a shared experience that people can chat about later, over a cup of coffee or around the water cooler. Something that can bring people together--even people who work around the corner, in an office or cubicle, or on a different floor. Even people of different genders, social backgrounds or generations.

Harrumphers need not attend. Voluntary self-selection is obviously important, and a critical component of inclusion. At bottom, it's really about providing access and opportunity for people who are curious and open to new and different experiences--maybe even somebody like you.

Start a meditation "club" in your firm. Invite partners, associates and staff members who you think would never participate, and be prepared to be surprised. Meditation is wellness, and wellness is in the air!


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