I have a client who talks a lot about creating a teaching and learning culture. The context for him, which he captured in his book about active grandparenting, was how grandparents, parents and grandkids can all learn from one another across the generations.
What’s amazing is that at 87, he is living his philosophy, constantly learning and evolving and growing and changing his ideas, based on conversation and push back from his grandchildren as they also share what they have learned from him.
In the world of cultural competence or cultural appreciation the same is true. When we strive to understand another’s perspective, another style or interpret our staunch ideas through someone else’s lens, it opens up the world of possibilities.
I think of this “two-way street” model of exchange from something the late great Helen Doria* pointed out when Navy Pier built the big stairs near the Ferris wheel (in 1995). Two accessible ramps flanked the stairs. Planners assumed the ramps would be for people with disabilities and everyone else would use the stairs to walk up and down. In reality everyone uses the ramps and people relax, enjoy snacks, socialize and sit on the stairs.
The bottom line? We blend and mesh and learn from each other when we are open to inclusivity and accommodating to all. Different perspective doesn’t threaten our ideas, it elevates them.
*One of Doria’s last projects was as the lead consultant for The 606, which will open this weekend. (Chicago’s response to Manhattan’s High Line—it converts a dilapidated stretch of old L Tracks to a park and promenade)