Your Whole Self at Work

The FCNow blog pointed me to a very interesting article they have (available to everyone) on their website. It’s by Margaret Heffernan and it is partially about women and diversity in the workplace, but it goes beyond that and has a couple of really good concepts.

The first is the notion of “thinking deficiency disorder.” She argues that we hire smart people and make them stupid. We do this partially because we demand that they only bring part of themselves to work. Who we are at work is different than who we are with friends, or at home with the family, etc. This quote sums it up:

Where does Thinking Deficiency Disorder come from? From the perception that only certain kinds of intelligence, skills and beliefs are relevant and welcome at work. That the rest must stay locked in the car. Where does good thinking come from? From the integration of every kind of intelligence, skill and belief that you have. From engaging the whole self, not the partial self.

We’ve fallen into bad habits, thinking about diversity purely as a woman’s issue, at best a way of saving money, at least a compliance problem. But the true value of diversity lies in the thinking it enables. Why do we do so much team work? Because a group of intelligences can conceptualize a problem in more ways and thus find more solutions. But that only works when the members of the group are different, are allowed to be different and bring the widest possible range of experience and skills to the table.

I think there are big implications for allowing whole selves to show up at work. It would really change the workplace, and I think that would scare a lot of people. But I think it could be a huge source of competitive advantage.