“No one has ever made any difference, by being like everybody else.”
This quote by PT Barnum in the movie “The Greatest Showman”, which is an awesome movie by the way, kinda says it all. Another quote I want to hit you with before we dive into this is from General George S. Patton. Besides being a bit of a hardass and a “man of his time” with lots of controversial opinions, he did have a very good perspective on cognitive diversity. He said;
Wait, what now - diversity you say? Okay, let me start from the beginning. Humans have, by nature, a fear of the unknown. We are usually suspicious, and sceptic of anything new, or strange to us. Things that don’t look “normal”, objects that are not “normal”, situations that are not “normal”, and then the point of this blogpost; Humans who we consider not to be “normal”. But I want you, who are reading this, to ask yourself; Do you consider yourself normal?
Let us get academic here for a second and see how the Dictionary of Oxford Languages defines normal; as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”
Now answer me this; How on earth would we get anything done if everyone did or thought what was standard, usual, typical, or expected?
I mean, we would still be dragging ourselves and our stuff around on the ground not understanding anything about the concept of wheels, since everyone was “normal” and did, said and thought exactly the same. What then would be needed was that impatient cave-dweller who at some point snapped, dropped his stuff to the ground and yelled out loud: “There has got to be a different way!".
Did you know that scientists for a loooong time have tried to search for the genetic completely “normal” human? They did it in order to make a reference genom. But hey, guess what? They had to give up! The smartest guys and girls among us had to realize that no humans on Earth are 100% normal.
So here goes: Normal doesn't exist. No one is normal. We are all human variations on a long series of the different axis. Especially on the cognitive one.
The thing is, when we hear the word diversity, we often relate it with age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, culture, neurodiversity like autism and ADHD (which I advocate for) and so on. But.. let’s try and elevate the discussion beyond the labels, beyond the “categories”. Let’s talk about cognitive diversity.
Very short, cognitive diversity is the inclusion of people who have different styles of problem-solving and can offer unique perspectives because they think differently. And this just doesn’t apply to autism, ADHD and other neurological conditions with their own strengths. This goes for literally everyone. Because these perspectives are shaped by WHO you are, not WHAT you are.
You as a person, a citizen of the planet Earth, are a sum of all your experiences throughout your life. The positive, the negative, and even the traumatic experiences in your life can be turned into a skill or strength that can be utilized in a constructive way. Your brain is as unique as your fingerprint as it has been shaped by your life. So please use it.
As some of you may or may not know, at Tietoevry we are on a genuine mission to change the world to the better. To create purposeful technology for the good of society. In order to do that, we need to be the society. We need to reflect every facet, every layer, every aspect of the world we live in today. To do that we need brains. We need various kinds of brains. We need your brain, her brain, his brain, their brain – heck, even my brain for some strange reason. Because we need friction.
I mean, we all want everything in our life to go smooth or frictionless. In 95% percent of all contexts, friction might be a negative thing. But not in all contexts...
You see, the world needs friction - because friction is not the same as conflict. Conflict is confrontational, aggressive and destructive. But friction is not meant to be malicious or ill-intended. Friction creates new perspectives. Friction creates value for ourselves and for society. Friction will help the world move forward. To do good.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, and those of you not identifying with either is why we need cognitive diversity. Now go make some friction in the world. Have your voice and opinion heard, not for WHAT you are but for WHO you are? And to all you people who are in fact not normal at all; Don’t stay where you are merely tolerated, go where you are celebrated.