Human diversity is a permanent condition of the human race. When diversity is correctly understood, deeply appreciated and well managed, it carries immense advantages for individuals, work teams, organizations, and society. When misunderstood and badly handled, it can carry disastrous consequences and disadvantages. The success measure of diversity management efforts should therefore be to minimize its potential disadvantages and maximize its advantages.
The book 100 Lessons in Diversity: Learning about yourself and others, written by Stanley I. Bongwe, is a culmination of over fifteen (15) years of the author’s hands-on work in the field. The book helps in demystifying the concept of human diversity and taking the concept to a level broader and deeper than mere physical differences. It also dispels the myth that human diversity is the same as cultural diversity, since the latter is part of the former, and does not define it. The book chapters and lessons target the individual’s psychological inhibitions and highlight the practical benefits that will result from diversity appreciation and competence in today’s diverse world and changing workplace. The book is also a tool to drive solution-focused organizational conversations and constructive dialogue.
The book draws a mosaic of workplace, school and global South African situations, which are a microcosm of the diversity of today’s world of work and society. The author takes the reader through a wide range of real-life experiences, which specifically but not exclusively unfold in the corporate workplace. These experiences illustrate the sometimes muted, subtle and overt drama of conflict and tension that in most cases arise due to lack of ability to leverage diversity in the changing world. The myths and prejudices that we have been socialized on about diverse others are deconstructed through anecdote, analysis and interpretation. Personal testimonies of individuals are given room for intimate expression, giving the book a first-hand account of diversity dynamics in contemporary South Africa.
The author’s intimate knowledge of the subject matter is further illustrated by the manner in which diversity principles are drawn from universal and local human experiences from each one of the 100 lessons. The message that one draws from the book is loud and clear, that diversity understanding, appreciation and competence have become a requirement for leadership and professional effectiveness, personal fulfilment, and peaceful co-existence. Ignoring diversity today is an act of merely postponing the inevitable, because eventually one is going to have to deal with diverse others.