• Teri Christian

Human Privilege

Wow! A colleague recommended a book called "Ishmael" to me, since I respected him and his counterparts, I read the book - in one day - and it changed my life profoundly. There are so many insights to share, but I will try to rein myself in.

As I was contemplating writing this post, which always stresses me out as I feel I have nothing profound to say, I was sitting in a restaurant trying to appease my sick, two year old granddaughter.

She wasn't in the best mood, as we waited for her mom to come and fetch her, she was acting a bit perturbed with me and a little frustrated. A young boy, maybe 10 years old, noticed this and decided to come to my rescue. He got a toy from a vending machine and tried to pique her interest in a toy mouse. I explained to him that she hadn't learned what a mouse is yet so she didn't show much interest.

He proceeded to give her the container the mouse came in (resembled a ball), she was thrilled! She knows ball and loves them! He met her where she was at!

Soon afterwards he produced a soccer ball. She lost her mind. Ball! Yes, she knows that!! They played with the ball. All the adults were busy on their iPhones - ignoring any possible disturbance or need to interact with humans out of their digital circles.

The situation that was unfolding before me took me away from my work. I was reflecting on a passage from the book, Ishmael, where the gorilla (spoiler here) talked about how being taken from his tribe was like a finger being taken off of a hand. He saw his tribe as interconnected, with each member providing some sort of purpose.

This young boy knew that the baby needed to be entertained, and he responded, without provocation. He was suddenly part of my tribe, a finger to the hand. He was practicing what I call -

Diverse Collaboration: Solutioning with others, regardless of perceived boundaries.

I have had a lot of discussions about privilege and it is a subject of interest to me. There is white privilege, male privilege, on and on. I noticed someone that got on the bus before me and had a seat, had 'sit down privilege'. Every time the bus hit a bump or took a turn I was jolted into her space. She was not happy with this and would respond with a glare. It made me think... what if she was forced to stand up for the hour long ride home and roles were reversed, would I leverage my 'sit down privilege'? I learned a lot that day, about bias and how we treat others.

I have never really understood this phenomena, why do we have a need to feel superior to others? 'Ishmael' helped shed some light on the subject, because we feel we have 'human privilege'. We are trained to live in a hierarchy of 'I am better than you, therefore I must control you", which goes totally against our internal nature and is detrimental to society as a whole. You have to read the book to totally understand this, but check your thinking and how you stack yourself against others.

As I apply this concept to my work as a agent of change, I realize it is at the core of what I do. My goal is to help build a team that values each other, as fingers to a hand... not a team that is whipped into shape by 'the ruler'. Why is this important?

As human beings we are at our best when we are trusted to do our best. It is that simple. We want to contribute to our 'society' in a positive way.

As we build great teams, we need to share this through the organization by building teams of teams. We can do this without asking permission, but by simply working together without an org change. Not because it is good for us, but is good for all.

I worked with a production support team who kept their developers completely away from stakeholders because they were worried about bias on several different levels. After months of coaching the leaders began to realize that exclusion caused more pain than the perceived danger of inclusion.

They began to slowly get out of the way, as they did, they saw success and began to exponentially create team of teams across stakeholder groups.

The leaders used Diverse Collaboration, honoring diversity, equity and inclusion, to create better results and reduce waste.

There were no org changes or permission needed, we generally do not have to ask to include people, we just have to trust. Many people think that technology will finally ruin us, but as a change agent, I have to wonder if the values and principles might just save us? Read the book and let's talk.

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