I love Christmas music. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I listen to Christmas music as my music of choice from Thanksgiving to New Year’s every year. In fact, as a card carrying member of Gen X, I’ve even created several “mix tapes” of Christmas music from my 30+ Christmas CD’s I own. My wife is convinced I have a problem, but she plays along since she likes the music too.
As I was listening to one of the local 24/7 Christmas music stations the other night while washing dishes, something struck me. One of the really unique things about Christmas music is that it comes in every flavor imaginable. As you listen to Christmas music, you’ll get a jazz song, followed by country, followed by pop, followed by instrumental rock, followed by classical, etc. You get the idea. Christmas music represents a giant mashup of every kind of musical style. It’s vibrant and interesting and fun. And I think that’s part of the reason people love it. It’s the only time of year when most of us expose ourselves to such a wide variety of musical styles–and it’s refreshing.
But, at the same time, Christmas music is familiar. In the midst of all this diversity of musical styles is a common theme that I can connect to (and often sing along with). It is this familiarity that holds Christmas music together as a genre and what makes it so powerful. We know the words. We know the tunes. We know the stories. And it’s fun to hear so many unique and interesting interpretations of this familiarity.
As we reflect on this, I wonder if there’s a lesson for culture building hidden within this phenomena of Christmas music. In order for us to fully appreciate and make room for the power of diversity within our organizations, maybe we have to start with creating the familiarity. I think that cultural familiarity comes in the form of values. We recognize and feel comfortable in a culture where we recognize our values. Where our values are honored and lived. If I’m creative, I feel at home in a culture that practices a value of creativity.
Maybe if we can create a firm foundation of values to establish familiarity for those in the culture, then we can begin to make room for the vibrance of diversity as we see these values brought to life in many different ways. If we both share a value of creativity, then when you express it one way and I express it another way, that’s not only okay, it actually makes the experience better. It that creates a more robust exchange and allows us to create in more meaningful ways together.
So, as you finish your shopping or holiday preparations, take a few minutes to listen for the diversity that lives in Christmas music. And then, when you head back to work after your holiday, let’s find a way to bring some of that diversity with us.