When we neglect dimensions of our own uniqueness and reduce others to just a few of theirs, we limit human potential and resilience.

Leaders, entrepreneurs and future leaders who just accept and respect diversity in the workplace miss an essential opportunity to embrace and celebrate it. With the intense push to increase diversity should come the equally intense push to enable us to reflect and share who we are at work.

Today’s popular understanding of diversity emphasize age, sexual orientation, gender, race, and ethnicity — even though travel, globalization, and open-mindedness have increased the number of individuals who identify as multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. But we are much more than the boxes we tick. There are over 30 other socially significant dimensions of our humanity — from neurodiversity, to physical and mental ability, to political worldview, personality or character traits.

Like dice, humans have multiple faces. So, we wondered: If you conceive of yourself as a pair of dice, what 12 dimensions have shaped who you are?

How do they combine to form the software of your mind?[1] Could being more aware of our various dimensions help us lead more balanced lives and be better partners, parents, fellow world citizens, and colleagues to equally multi-dimensional individuals? Would it help us build more diverse and tolerant and connected workplaces? And if so, how would our view of the world and its reflection back change if we occasionally changed the faces of the dice that we chose to present to the world and then reached out to others with whom we shared these dimensions?

Three steps start the process of decoding yourself and composing your dice.

1. Start by just listing 12 things that come to your mind when you think of yourself. Think about their dimensions — origins, traits, skills, mindset.

2. Now do it again, this time focusing on six character traits. (Think about deep-seated aspects of your behavior, typically developed over time and these may not be immediately obvious)

3. Repeat it one last time, focusing now on listing six attributes. (An attribute is a characteristic that is given to a person).

We are sharing ours as an example which is very personal and so would be suited to a group of friends probably:

In the pandemic companies and groups looked for different options to connect. Corporate games can give employees excuses to play in a different way. Ours affords connection but also a deeper understanding of each other.

What happens when we cast our dice?

Usually when we flip a coin or cast dice we have a hope for how they will fall. Sometimes we capture our emotions and desires before they land. If you were to throw your dice virtually which faces do you hope would be showing? Do I wish that the side that is related to charisma show because I may be uneasy about my ability to compete on my skills alone? What does this tell me about how I see myself and how I think the world sees me?

Often in times of crises we wind up destabilized and favor one side of the dice. For example, after emerging out of a road accident, our empathy towards such victims multiplies and the probability of joining support groups for safe driving increases; or after a divorce, we might identify more with our own gender than we did while married. Then other life events — a baby, health scare or a layoff — recast the dice. It’s a very scary time because the old hand is gone but it’s also a moment of opportunity and discovery.

These events force us to consider a shift in our identity, and such shifts often impact relationships. This tends to become multi-dimensional as we need to be sensitive to those around us whose dice have been cast differently. As we choose a new side of our dice, they need to adapt and renegotiate how they see and handle us. Hence, we need to account for the fact that our new presentation might elicit different reactions from people around us which might push us back into the comfort zone that we want to avoid.

Reflect on how you navigated Covid-19: decode the faces you chose to show or which became visible when the world shifted — and the ones you are choosing to show now.

Boxed into small squares on screens, our focus inadvertently has been on ensuring everything that is visible about us in that small box is well-presented, groomed, and audible.

  • Do we run the risk of ignoring the other parts of our physicality and self? Have we been putting extra emphasis on one or two faces of our dice?
  • Is it due to our comfort zones or our expectations of those around us that we are happy to play to the gallery?
  • Has that helped us, or is it time to make a conscious effort to experiment with other facets?
  • What can we do differently so that this new hand filled with opportunity and discovery is not fleeting but enables us to play with other dimensions of ourselves?

More generally, once you create your dice, use them to rediscover yourselves. Use them also to (re)discover others around you. We can inhabit new version of ourselves when we are willing to let go of the past. It is important as we evolve to know when it is good to recast our die and see what we get as a result. You might have more in common than you think.

******************************************************************About the Authors:

Nalini Kaushal — Founder, SetuWorks, has over 18 years of multi-disciplinary work experience in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Strategic Communications and Learning and Development spread across Indian and international waters. She is a Computer Engineer from Pune University and an alumna of SP Jain Institute of Management & Research. Nalini is also a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner and she blends this methodology and mindset to the projects that she champions. Before SetuWorks, in her last corporate stint with Hindustan Unilever Limited, Nalini was leading their largest sustainable community development programme, ‘Prabhat’. Her organization, SetuWorks (‘Setu’ in Sanskrit means ‘bridge’) leverages the power of SDG17 and drills deep into collaborations with the aim of being a bridge from ideas to execution as well as between multiple stakeholders working towards a common cause. The three core verticals being Strategic Communications, CSR and Wellbeing.

Carin Isabel Knoop leads the Harvard Business School’s research and writing group, and has written more than 200 case studies on organizations around the world. There she writes about managers during the day. At night she thinks about how to make their challenging lives better. This lead to a research and publications in the area of mental health in the workplace and an interest in human sustainability. She is a pragmatic idealist and fanatic postcard writer.

[1] Professor Geert Hofstede describes culture as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.” We think this could be applied to our individuality or the mental program that becomes the software of our mind. Thank you Merita Vilen, Associate Partner of Hofstede Insights, for your thoughts.

Passionate about encouraging human sustainability and equal access at work. Collector and connector of people and ideas.