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The World Cup: Now Blowing Traditional Diversity Training Away at a Company Near You...

I grew up in rural Missouri.  Soccer for me growing up in the later 70's and 80's was non-existent.  It didn't exist where I matriculated from, and I'm reasonably sure that anyone with a passion for soccer would have been openly mocked.  

Flash forward to today - Within the past 48 hours, I've had meaningful conversations about background andWorld-cup-1998 heritage with 4 people, including those whose ancestors hail from Korea, South Africa, England and Serbia. 

All of those conversations were started by a reference to the World Cup, at which point someone would tell me more about their "home team", which invariably led to dialogue about culture in their "home country", although all the folks in question were second or third generation Americans. 

Which makes me think - the World Cup is far better at getting people to understand and respect differences than any diversity training you've ever seen in Corporate America.

Think about it - even good diversity training is hopelessly PC.  Respect differences. Don't be Archie Bunker. Try hard - often too hard - to be sensitive to people who are different from you.  Then think about the World Cup, which is a diversity training exercise that can go like this if you allow yourself to ask questions:

"Who you pulling for in the World Cup?"


"Really?  Family there?"

"My mom and dad were first generation Americans.  They came here in their early 20's.  Still lots of relatives back in the homeland."

At which point, if you're smart, you keep asking questions.  The trails those questions take you down open everyone up.

Diversity training is too often based around caution - that's just the way it works, or at least how it impacts people who go through a standard diversity class.  The World Cup is more about conversations.

Just ask someone who they're pulling for, then much like behavioral interviewing, keep asking questions.

You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you learn and how you feel afterwords.

If you are an HR Pro and allowed a "March Madness" style office pool around the World Cup, congrads.  You probably bought yourself as many meaningful conversations as the diversity training you hosted last month.


Trish McFarlane

Kris, I love the angle on this post. I was wondering how many people would gravitate to writing about the World Cup and if they would only focus on the vuvuzela horns. Kudos to you for finding a meaningful way to show the value of using a global event to help bring us closer to our colleagues.

Ray Goldberg

Kris, you've got it exactly right. To me, real diversity means that people should be able to bring as much of themselves to work as they want. The World Cup definitely makes that easier, and more rewarding.

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