Zootopia: 4 Lessons on Diversity Management

Monday, March 7, 2016

This Friday I agreed to chaperone a group of teens to go see Zootopia, expecting a cute Disney cartoon. Instead, I found an action flick full of lessons about living and thriving in a world of diversity. Perfect material for my next cultural fluency presentation! Here are a few of the lessons that I have captured so far:

 

1. Diversity goes both ways. Both the token individual and the majority group need to be on guard about the assumptions they make about one another. We have to get to the individual level to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of each member of a team to maximize everyone's experiences and contributions.

 

2. Diversity takes courage. To embrace people who are different than us means giving them a chance to betray our trust. There is always a chance that given certain circumstances, people will behave in the negative ways we expected them to based on stereotypes. It also means we have to build full confidence in ourselves to be our best selves rather than conforming to the failure other people may be expecting from us.

 

3. Diversity is mission-focused. Both majority and minority stakeholders need to stay focused on their common issues that will deliver mutual benefit. In the case of a business, that is to deliver more growth, innovation and profit. While fear is a powerful motivator to action, it diminishes the pie. We must fight fear with specific facts rather than generalizations supported by a few incidents. For more about this read my 3 Ideas to Address the Diversity Crisis post in the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) blog.

 

4. Diversity resists stereotyping. While Disney has created a rich movie full of lessons, it was also a film that involved humor based on stereotypes. Humor is tricky because as expressed by one character in the movie, when it is "us" laughing at ourselves it is OK but if "you" laugh at "us" it is not funny.

 

Considering that it has taken Disney 4 to 7 years to create previous animated films, the timeliness of the topic of this movie is uncanny. May it spark many productive discussions among our family, friends and coworkers on what it means to us in an increasingly multicultural America.

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