Organizations are full of diverse, unique individuals, whose culture and history often allow them to educate and broaden the minds of their peers. Engaging group members in team-building diversity activities can strengthen bonds and reduce the chance for discord, resulting in a more harmonious and productive environment for all group members.
Getting to Know Each Other
Participants often attend diversity and team-building events with fixed ideas about what will happen. To get feedback on group members' ideas about diversity and workshops, divide people into small groups (do not group together people who are familiar with each other). Let the groups discuss their prior experiences and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
To get everyone to know a little something about each other, have participants make a table tent with their name and a couple of things that most people don't know about you (with flexibility to add more at a later time). Have members explain their table tent to the group.
Group members should learn to value their similarities and differences. Have people divide into small groups, take a sheet of flip chart paper and draw a large flower with a center and as many petals as there are group members. Have them fill in the flower's center with their commonalities. Members' individual petals should contain something unique to them, not including physical attributes. Following the small group interaction, everyone should gather and share their similarities and differences with the large group.
A person's identity often starts with his name, so it's a good idea to have group members understand what their peers' name means to them. Pair people off and have them find out where their partners' names originated, what the name means to them and how others have reacted to their name.
Activities for Common Diversity Issues
Getting people to experience and understand various cultural, ethnic, gender and religious groups is an important facet to diversity and team building. Based on demographics, divide group members by categories and have them write down what they want others to know about their group, what they never want to experience again as a member of their group and what they want their peers to do. Afterwards, discuss as a group.
Sexual orientation is a diversity issue that could negatively affect an organization, depending on members' knowledge and tolerance. Draft a sexual identification sheet, listing 10 scenarios describing various people's sexual behaviors and experiences. Have members classify the people -- heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual -- and then discuss their answers as a group.
Some answers will be cut and dry, though others probably will cause debate, as some people define sexual orientation by factors such as behavior, desire, self-identification or a combination of the three.
Stereotyping often affects people's ability to work or interact together. Reiterate to your group how limited experience can lead to unfair bias about a particular person or thing. Take a child that gets bitten by a dog -- every time he sees or hears a dog, he gets scared, because he thinks all dogs are vicious like the one that bit him. Over time and through more experiences with other dogs, he will realize that not all are alike.
Jim Radenhausen is a freelancer who began writing professionally in 1998. A resident of Reeders, Pa., he spent over two years working at the "Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal." Radenhausen received his bachelor's degree in English/professional writing from Kutztown University in 1997.