Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Diversity lessons from a cat!

There are opportunities that arise in ones life, that, when taken, can open our minds and show us how to accept differences. 

It all began with a cat. 

Some readers might be in the “must love dogs” camp. Other on the “must love cats” team. From my point of view, many people who love dogs, don't like cats. Take me for example. My entire life I was sure that I was allergic to cats as I always seemed to sneeze around them. My limited exposure to them plus the sneezing had me believing that I would never actually have a cat in my house.

Dogs, such as Daisybelle that you may all have heard of or seen a few pictures of in my blog, Facebook or other places, are easy for me to love and understand. They are happy when you come home, want to make you happy, and with a good personality can be quite entertaining. 

People can be the same way. If you look around your neighborhood, you’ll probably find that your neighbors share many of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Those who work in marketing, probably choose visuals that resemble themselves. It seems human nature is to gravitate to what we know and like, either consciously or subconsciously. Those in the marketing field are also prone to this quirk of human nature, choosing imagery that supports their own bias.

In the past I have written about diversity and how it isn’t just good for society, but is good for business.  Cats belong in funny youtube videos, and dogs belong in the best commercials and romantic comedies don’t they?  Just as I was biased against cats, and had no experience to counter this attitude, I’m sure such biases extend to our experiences at work and at play. 

Life is not predictable, and all preconceptions against cats could not have prepared me for what comes next.  A little over a year ago a kitten was born, and as luck has it, five weeks later, she made herself loudly known, meowing at our window. By the end of the day we had a kitten, subsequently tagged with the “Lucky Cat” moniker, our new family member. 

And, guess what, Lucky is great. No, she isn’t a dog, but she does get excited when one of us comes home. She is as likely to be at the window looking out for us as Miss Belle. She enjoys human contact, without the ulterior motive of food or play, and guess what? She and Miss Belle get along just fine.

My point, with regards to diversity, is that you could replace Lucky with almost anything that you and I are unfamiliar with; we would stereotype it just as I did cats. I find that, just like cats, stereotypes tend to not hold true. I am gay, and, shock, I do not care about the label of clothes I wear, celebrities, or how to create the prettiest cakes and food, characteristics which are stereo-typically associated with gayness. But I am no less gay because of it. I was also raised in a Jewish household, yet I don’t fit any typically Jewish stereotypes, that is, except for the tendency to want Chinese food for Christmas and the belief that a New York bagel is a unique treat.

The best marketing and business outcomes are achieved by teams that open their minds to recognize and celebrate differences. Suggestion. Do as I have. Meet a cat. Pet her. Maybe even bring one home. Have a beer or a nosh with someone who is different. Such acts will broaden your perspective and just possibly expand your business opportunities as well.

I am confident the odds are that you will find that you have more in common than at first glance.

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