Our lives benefit from variety in terms of physical, financial, and emotional health.
When we hear the word "diversity," we immediately think of race and possibly culture. Of course, when discussing ethnic diversity, race and culture are important considerations. However, diversity is much broader. Diversity is present in all aspects of our lives and plays an important role in our survival.
Nature has a lot to teach us about the value of diversity.
Nature contains a wide range of plant and animal life. Such variation among organisms strengthens them and aids in their survival. Planting all the same trees in a park, for example, means that if one gets sick, they all get sick. Planting a variety of varieties ensures that some will thrive while others may have to contend with pests.
Consider the value of our biodiversity in ensuring our food security. I don't want to get too close to a bee, but we wouldn't have enough food if it didn't pollinate our vegetable and fruit plants.
What do we know about human biodiversity?
Hundreds of years of inbreeding among royal families to keep their bloodlines "pure" have revealed high mortality, poor health, and the transmission of genetic disorders. Variability within and between organisms increases strength.
Better health results from diversity.
Diseases are less common among plants and animals when there is more diversity.
Pathogens cannot easily find their ideal hosts among a wide range of plants and animals, resulting in lower disease levels. And disease transmission is reduced when there are a variety of hosts, as some will be less receptive than others, making disease reproduction less likely.
Diversity is also beneficial to human health. A well-balanced diet includes a diverse menu, which leads to improved physical health. Similarly, we are encouraged to alternate between activities, working some muscle groups one day and others the next, as well as a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Do not put all of your eggs in one basket!
Every good financial advisor will tell us that in order to make wise investments, we must diversify. Financial diversification spreads risk and increases overall success chances. If we put all of our money into one stock and it fails, we will lose everything.
Whether the investments are stocks, bonds, or real estate, the same diversification is encouraged—we are told to cover enough different ways to invest that any negative downturns in one area can be offset by stability in another.
Workplace diversity benefits the workplace.
According to research, diverse work groups result in more cognitive processing and information exchange.
People can learn from one another because diversity brings in new ideas and experiences. Bringing in new ideas and perspectives improves problem-solving. Working in diverse teams fosters dialogue and creativity.
The value of diversity applies to our culture as well.
We are more likely to be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking when we meet, live, and work with people who are different from us. Mixing with people from various backgrounds and life experiences makes us wonder why we do things the way we do. It compels people to question their values and beliefs.
While this may feel awkward at first—"but we always do it this way!"—it can be liberating. Learning about different ways to live our lives teaches us that there are many ways to do things. This variety can liberate us from the pressure to adopt a one-size-fits-all way of life.
Another advantage of diversity is that it can keep us from succumbing to the dangers of "groupthink."A strong desire to fit in and not stand out can lead to silence or the suppression of alternative ideas. This results in a group's thinking being consistent.
Groupthink can be tedious at best and hazardous at worst. For example, when top-level political advisors want to be part of the group or "loyal" to those in charge, they do not question decisions—they participate in groupthink, which can lead to bad decisions. It is much less likely to fall into the trap of not questioning and not believing there are multiple ways to do things when one is open to diverse ideas.
And, literally, diversity adds spice to life! Cultural expansion bestows great blessings on us. Cocoa was discovered by Mayans in Mexico, coffee by Ethiopians in Africa, wine-making by Chinese 7000 years ago, sugar by Indians thousands of years ago, and corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, vanilla, and maple syrup by Native Americans in North America.
Diversity keeps us in good physical, financial, professional, and emotional health. It promotes creativity and innovation. We are healthier when we live, work, and play in culturally diverse communities, which is why we need diversity.