Vanilla Flavoured Diversity

My Primary Workhorse

Signed……Steven Cramer. The black ink that had just permeated from my treasured fountain pen was almost dry on my new employment contract. I gleefully looked once again at the document, and then with an eager and expectant smile on my face, I carefully folded the paper, placed it in the reply-paid envelope and put it aside ready to be posted to my new employer.

All of us have at some stage in our working careers have experienced the excitement associated with starting a job with a new corporate organization, or a new role within your existing company. Prior to us starting this new role, we have many ideas and thoughts on how and what we are going to achieve, we do not impose any limitations, nor do we expect the organization or our fellow colleagues to hamper any progress on the attainment of these objectives.

Unfortunately, many of us after a few years working for the same organization lose this positive and creative persona and slowly morph into a common and accepted form of corporate behaviour where any diversity of thought is progressively extinguished. The result is a “vanilla flavoured” corporate culture that is prevalent in many corporate company’s today.

But does this need to be the case?

A thought.
Why do we not ask all new employees to write down their career aspirations on what they would like to achieve prior to the first day of their employment? This untainted document could then be stored for a period of time (say 3-5 years) following which it is then opened and reread by the employee and discussed with a senior member of the management team. It would be interesting for the employee to see how their enthusiasm has been maintained or even increased over the time period, or has it been severely hindered? If the latter, then what has caused this negativity and how could the corporate culture be improved to encourage and foster a greater diversity of thought?

Many companies talk about the concept of diversity, but are quite content to operate in the “vanilla flavoured” business environment. When a new employee starts, they may be flavoured “strawberry, blueberry, or even have lumps of chocolate” diffusing through their personality. But after a period of time, this creative flavour may have been slowly purged and replaced with the approved corporate taste. If an organization truly values diversity, why focus on the attainment of the “vanilla”?

There are many great benefits to a company if their employees do think that little bit differently, particularly with respect to innovation which could be utilised in a variety of different areas such as new product development, improvements in service offering or potential business expansions outside the traditional norm? If all employees think the same way (“vanilla”), then opportunities for innovation and creativity will be severely restricted.

So next time you are about to start a new role, may I suggest that you capture your thoughts and aspirations and revisit them later in your working career. The rereading might be quite enlightening, particularly for you, and your organization?

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4 Comments

  1. Sandra

     /  March 23, 2014

    Such good food for thought. Too often, everyone is left to their own devices, when actually to start pushing boundaries, conversations need to be had, conflicts dealt with positively and teams to be given opportunities to come up with genius ideas! When there is no motivation to talk to employees about how they are travelling, there’s no motivation for employees to travel any other path

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  2. tea, vanilla–loving this! Am going to add that vanilla doesn’t have to be vanilla per se. There are spendy tropical vanilla beans, pricey jars of vanilla bean paste. Lovely vanilla bean flecks churned into premium vanilla ice creams. So there’s vanilla and then there’s vanilla so vanilla can be something worth striving for. Though your flavor metaphor will give me further thought for the notes I’m putting together. Stay tuned.

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    • Hi Liz, great to hear from you and for the “vanilla comments”. Wish I was having some of your vanilla bean ice-cream right now! Cheers, Steve

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