“Inclusion is not consensus. It’s about hearing different perspectives. Not about making everyone happy.” This tweet piqued my interest. Inclusion is a popular subject these days and much is written about the difference between inclusion and diversity, as well as the necessity for workplace cultures to incorporate both. Many corporate websites include a section on inclusion and diversity. RBC said it succinctly: “Diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.”

So, if diversity speaks to the visible differences in our changing demographics and inclusion speaks to incorporating the richness of ideas, cultures, and perspectives that these diverse backgrounds bring to a conversation…then how do we create an inclusive culture?

Human tendency is to look at a situation as right vs. wrong. Being inclusive is a deliberate, learned behavior. Arin Reeves, author of The Next IQ, suggests that intelligence in the 21st Century will be determined by leadership ability “to shift from right to wrong to multiple rights.”

Five Styles of Thinking to Create Inclusion

As productive individuals, how can we expose ourselves to situations that will promote our own understanding and capacity for inclusive activities? I recently had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Dr. Arin Reeves. Her comments revolved around the power of creating inclusive environments that bring a multitude of styles and backgrounds together in a manner that supersedes the inputs of any one individual.

Let me share five styles of thinking that were particularly interesting:

1. Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.

Here are how some brands exemplify this concept:

As marketers, we recognize that customer insights and an inclusive approach to the feedback were critical in creating these campaigns.

2. Creativity will often soar when given constraints.

Think about how you would feel if given a sheet of paper and asked to “draw something.” Now think about how you feel when you are given a sheet of paper and asked to draw a picture of your dream house, paying special attention to the front entrance way. The constraints provide direction and allow you to draw with a purpose (This advice has been especially helpful for me personally)

3. Make the conscious—aware of the subconscious—by stating such.

Remember the mandatory training program you were asked to lead to a group of professionals. Or maybe you were one of the participants who was mandated to attend the training. No one really wanted to be in the room and no one really believed that the instructor was going to teach them something new about the subject—especially since the instructor came from an entirely different background than any of the attendees.

“To make the conscious aware of the unconscious,” the facilitator’s opening remarks might be:

“You are probably wondering what I could teach you today. Please have some patience with me. I promise you that I am giving this my best. At the end of our time together, feel free to come up and share with me one new piece of information that you received today.”

Remember, this scenario was set up with a mandatory training program; not everyone looks at mandatory training as opportunities for creative thinking or a platform for inclusion. By acknowledging this up front…you empathize with the audience and recognize that there are alternative perspectives.

4. When given a list of items to choose from, is your first choice the correct answer?

Maybe. If the selection involves something that necessitated you study or if the subject is one that you have experience with—then yes, you would be making an educated choice and it is wise to go with your first choice. On the other hand, you may be making a choice based simply on the knowledge that is available to you. This often includes what your friends have told you, what the media has shared, or what social media feeds have been read. Based on the importance of the decision being made, you may want to consider obtaining some more information and other sources of input before choosing your selection.

Inclusive thinking or pushing for inclusion in this situation acknowledges the “know it all attitude”…Hmmm. NOT.

5.Make an effort to regularly oppose yourself/challenge yourself and do something you said that you would never do.

First off, ethical considerations and safety issues trump all. Eating chicken feet and jellyfish at a Chinese New Year celebration (like I did) is a tangible start. Taking an introductory class in a foreign language or a computer programming language are challenges that provide a new appreciation for something outside of your comfort zone. A strategy director that I recently met uses exotic travel as a way to immerse himself in a completely different culture and language for a full seven to fourteen day period.

Taking advantage of opportunities which can challenge oneself in a manner that is truly outside of one’s comfort zone is inclusive because it forces the individual to think with a new perspective and potentially creates “a sense of awe.”

The five styles of thinking described here are behaviors that go beyond helping us as leaders, as they can impact us in our day-to-day lives as friends and family members. Imagine your teenager cleaning their room because they recognize a correlation between neat, tidy, and academic success…or neat, tidy, and sex appeal!