Richard Montanez was a janitor with Frito-Lay when he created the recipe for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Years later as Pepsi’s executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation, he has been known to encourage young minorities to pursue their dreams by emphasizing:
“My disqualifications are the very things that qualified me.”
That is quite a bold and counterintuitive declaration. Yet within it resides a powerful diversity truth. Sometimes the very thing that others think is a negative turns out to be a positive. Sometimes other people believe your characteristic of (fill in the blank) hinders your ability to contribute. Often, that very characteristic provides you special insight to see something that others overlook.
It is too easy for members of an organization to slip into groupthink, whereby everyone tends to think the same thing. Frequently, someone from a very different discipline or background brings new insights to an organization. The outsider can be the one to break the groupthink cycle and generate fresh ideas.
Let the power of diversity work for you and everyone around you. The next time you feel very different, be happy! Reflect on how your difference might be just the perspective that someone else needs today.
The flipside is equally true. The next time you think someone is very different, be happy. Reflect on how that person’s difference might be just the perspective you need today.
Let us remain alert to those “disqualifications.” They might be qualifications in disguise.