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A personal story

Ajay Pabial explores groupthink through personal examples.

We consider the creative sector to be diverse from an outside perspective, but from the inside, it’s clearly not.

Over time you start seeing yourself in different positions and roles, but the higher you look on the various ladders of success, the more homogenous in-groups become.

There’s this director I used to work with. At the start of her career in the creative industry, she would play a fun game.

On entering any board meeting, she would count the number of women in the room.

Most of the time, it would just be her.

When she told me this, I started doing it too. Going into meetings, I’d count how many people of colour were in each space. As a queer individual and a person of South Asian descent, I’d factor those in too.

Most of the time, the answer was zero.

Often, this would lead to me becoming a token addition for any conversations about race, ethnicity or LGBTQ+ representation – or any alternative perspectives within the organisation’s work.

Barriers don’t define people

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, another friend texted me this:

‘You’re quite a successful person, and I’ve never seen your skin tone or skin colour to be a factor of that.’
I cannot count the number of times other people of colour in my network have said that colleagues and friends said similar things to them. Even more so since the uprisings around the world.
The ‘colour-blind’ mentality appears to be inclusionary on the surface, but it’s not.
While colour is not a factor of anyone’s ability, denying that it’s used as one only serves to hide the very real systems that promote bias against underrepresented groups.
To open up the in-groups of our organisations, we need to acknowledge that colour, gender and sexuality are considered aspects of ability, whether implicitly or explicitly.
The flipside to this is another colleague who once commented:
‘Despite your boundaries, you’re doing really well.’

This appears to communicate camaraderie – empathy, even. But it still ascribes aspects of my success to socio-political obstacles.

Both these events made me ask this rhetorical question of those people:

How are you seeing the people around you?

Groupthink can affect anyone

Groupthink is often a product of a dominant mentality or of many individual’s desires to say ‘yes’ to a dominant individual.

Both of the people I just referenced are in relatively high managerial positions.

So, while it may seem unnecessary to talk about these isolated incidents, they may very well indicate the lack of thought diversity in their teams.

Instead of holding either of these mentalities, we can consider diverse people, not in terms of the boundaries that affect them, but on their individual merit – absent of any presuppositions.

Let’s stop thinking of diverse people as ‘different’ from the ‘norm’, with series’ of obstacles to overcome. Instead, we can think of diversity as a reversion to the norm.

Should we really consider it normal that society is primarily represented by a relatively homogenous in-group?

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Groupthink: Understanding the Need for a Diverse Workplace

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