Leadership Spotlight

Benefiting from the Viewpoints of a Diverse Society

Stock image of a group of people having a discussion.

The fast pace of modern life often gives us a convenient excuse to avoid important matters. Or, we may look for quick fixes so we can move on to the next item on our “things I have to deal with” list, rather than explore potential options and find better ways to accomplish tasks.  

It is a mistake to constantly ignore available possibilities and hope for the best by merely plodding forward as usual. A simple yet effective technique to help break from the “single mind-set” pitfall entails listening to and involving a broader range of community members. We must recognize the value of obtaining a variety of viewpoints to help shape our overall thinking and understand how doing so can lead to better practices. 

A fantastic opportunity exists for us to benefit from the different viewpoints of people in both our local and extended communities. We must ask for outside guidance to take advantage of the valuable insights they have to offer.

Relying solely on our individual experiences, values, and preferences proves insufficient. Instead, we must consider, learn more about, and incorporate the thoughts of our community members to maximize mutually beneficial outcomes. Taking input on what others hold as important helps us understand a wide range of significant considerations that often go unrecognized.

Affording people the opportunity to express themselves and participate in information sharing represents a victory in itself. Accepting communal input ultimately results in achieving better outcomes and minimizes opposition by making people feel included. Remaining receptive and inclusive is a simple yet vital element to help us make decisions that people can understand, agree with, and support or allow them to offer contrasting information toward a different outcome. However, for various reasons it seems that obtaining and incorporating multiple perspectives is not common practice.

Sometimes, we avoid new ideas because we feel comfortable with familiar methods and solutions. Individuals prefer tried-and-true methods and usually will make decisions alone by associating the new situation with something they have dealt with in the past.  

People often use well-known adages—for instance, “Stick with what you know works” or “No need to reinvent the wheel”—to promote these methods, rather than consider the wide range of possibilities open to them and the advantages these other solutions offer. This hasty approach negates our need to constantly reevaluate options to identify changes that cultivate mutually beneficial solutions and long-term successes.  

Engaging diverse viewpoints also facilitates the discovery of issues others find significant. By merely listening to and including others, we gain value by facilitating an environment that recognizes our community’s interests. The information gained should result in a complete, partial, or subtle innovation that productively advances resolution of challenges previously unrecognized or ignored.

While it seems natural to use what we know works, rather than try something new and explore different outcomes, we must overcome this reluctance to change. The security we feel by conducting business as usual limits our ability to deal with change until we find it thrust upon us. It often takes a catastrophic failure that makes it impossible to repeat our former process to overcome this faulty mind-set. Looking for new possibilities should entail an ongoing process, not an act of desperation during crisis.

Exploring options should comprise a continuous process that involves openness to new methods and the potential associated outcomes. Awareness of the vast concerns that affect society and the full spectrum of conditions that impact us is important. Facilitating information sharing and acting upon people’s diverse viewpoints are essential to meet the needs of our communities.

We must understand that maintaining a wider world perspective offers us the ability to adapt by incorporating meaningful information that corresponds with the needs of society. Openness to other viewpoints helps us attain a realistic approach that advances solutions to correspond with community expectations and address what matters most to the public.

However, the biggest problem we face is that we instinctively think in a fashion that applies to and suits us alone, despite the wide range of factors we should consider. We owe it to our community members to consider their diverse viewpoints and honor what they hold as important.

“We must recognize the value of obtaining a variety of viewpoints to help shape our overall thinking and understand how doing so can lead to better practices.”

Supervisory Special Agent Benny Lamanna of the Executive Programs Instruction Unit at the FBI Academy prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at blamanna@fbi.gov.