The pace of change has peaked in recent years. We're having trouble assimilating -- and with good reason.
Consultant Harvey Coleman notes that if we condense 200,000 years of human history into a more conceptually manageable 200 years, we humans only learned that we could start our own fires about 15 years ago. Before that, nothing much happened.
By this analysis, we began to write to communicate about seven years ago. The printing press appeared six months ago. A month ago, we got the telephone, then the airplane.
And in just the past two weeks, we've mastered space travel, fiber optics, Star Wars, stealth bombers, DNA codes, microwaves, faxes, cell phones, the Internet, organ transplants, Velcro and cloning. No wonder we feel pressed.
In those last "two weeks," the United States has also seen big social and demographic changes.
Today more than 300 different languages are spoken in both rural and urban areas of our country. The U. S. Latino population grew 58 percent in the last decade. African-Americans now constitute 13 percent of our total. Asian-Americans are our third-largest and fastest-growing ethnic group. The combined buying power of these three groups alone is expected to increase at more than double the rate of the Anglo market by 2007.
Workforce changes reflect population changes. Three decades ago, America's workforce was largely young, white and male.
In 2000, an estimated 85 percent of the new entrants into the workforce were people of color or white women. Increasing numbers of disabled workers outpaced the growth of any other subgroup.
For the first time, we now find substantial representation of four generations in the workplace and with them, changes in family structure and the nature of work.
Where does our community stand? Historically, Colorado Springs has faced unique diversity challenges. We are less racially and ethnically diverse than the nation. Recurrent challenges and negative national press in the not-so-distant past gained us unflattering labels. The political climate has not been perceived as friendly to diverse constituents.
But Colorado Springs is changing, too -- in demographics and in practice. Our city government, as an example, has begun to embrace these changes and to provide an example to others in its approach to diversity. Local business leaders -- both individual organizations and groups like the Pikes Peak Coalition of Chambers -- have taken steps toward elevating good diversity practices as an important business and community issue.
We live in an increasingly interwoven world. New global paradigms and shifting economic power require us to harness all talent to work together toward common goals.
Especially in an uncertain time of doing more and more with less and less, the best -- and perhaps only -- way to assure success is to fully include, develop and utilize all members of any "team." No one can be excluded from sharing either the burdens or the rewards of accomplishment.
When we value the full variety of attributes, backgrounds, cultures and ideas that people bring to a workplace or community, we maximize everyone's contribution to the things we share. We're more creative. We solve problems better. The data are in: good diversity practices get results.
Leveraging the power of human diversity is no different than diversifying a stock portfolio to assure economic well being, varying a diet to promote physical health, or preserving the bio-diversity that assures continuity of life on the planet.
It is not a short-term fix. It is not this year's fad or a target number. It is an ongoing process of continual learning, adaptation and change that is essential to our survival. It is a fire we can -- and must -- learn to light for ourselves.
Jody H. Alyn (
firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of a change management consulting firm and the former diversity coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs. Alyn's photograph was inadvertently published with last week's Your Turn; The Independent regrets the error.