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Hanging Out With People Different From Me

by David Brock on March 20th, 2021

It’s human nature to hang out people like us. Perhaps the people we are grow up with, perhaps those we went to school with. We tend to gravitate to people like us. Maybe it’s the shared experiences and backgrounds. Maybe it’s the comfort factor, the camaraderie.

It shapes every part of our lives. Where we live, our friendships, where we work.

We tend to hire people who look like us, who have similar backgrounds and experiences. We see things similarly, we have similar instincts and reactions. We learn, but we focus on learning the same things. We change, but we come up with the same experienced based solutions. Perhaps, we think there is a certain amount of efficiency that we perceive because we are more likely to be aligned around ideas and issues.

There’s a problem with hanging out with people just like us. We think and act similarly. We react to situations similarly. We are blind to the same things. We suffer from group think. We become prisoners of our own experience.

When we need to think differently, when we need to change and innovate, we struggle–because we are too similar. We think we innovate by looking at our competitors or near competitors. Organizations we know and who think and act like us. We think we are changing by emulating or iterating on something they do with marginal improvement.

The world is changing faster than any of our abilities to make sense of things and how we might respond. We live in worlds of increasing complexity, turbulence and information overwhelm. We struggle for answers when we see our experience base isn’t helpful in developing those answers.

How to we learn, how do we rethink, how do we innovate and develop new ideas and approaches? How do we free ourselves from group think or the prisons of our shared experience?

We have to find people with different ideas, experiences, backgrounds. We have to find people who think differently from us, who have different biases. We have to hang out with people who look different from us.

Whether it’s people with very different backgrounds, work experiences. People who work in different industries, different cultures or countries. We have to learn from people of differing gender, religion, race, social status, economic background.

We become better, we learn more faster, we adapt and innovate, when we hang out with people different from us.

If we seek to change, improve, innovate. If we are looking for new solutions. If we are trying to think differently, we can’t keep doing the same things and hanging out with the same people.

If we want to grow as individuals, organizations, communities, societies, the solution is pretty obvious. What keeps us from doing what is right in front of us? What keeps us from hanging out and learning from/with people different from us? What keeps us from valuing these differences?

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2 Comments
  1. Peter H Gruits permalink

    There is nothing obvious about it.

    • Peter: Interesting statement, could you elaborate? (In reflection, it’s a very provocative, would love to learn more)

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