Because he wanted to.
When Jack announced he was going to Auburn, he was on the Fairhope High swim team. My dad, Granbuddy in our family, offered him some advice for his next swim meet. Tie cinder blocks to your ankles.
Granbuddy has since softened and is considering allowing Jack to visit at Thanksgiving. If Auburn is 10-0 or 9-1 at that point, however, I have a feeling the deal will be off the table. A successful Auburn football season makes Thanksgiving at my parent's house edgy. My dad growls that the turkey is a little dry, the dressing is too clumpy, and the grace offered may be a little surly.
Such is the experience of growing up in our state.
A recent ESPN article stated the Paul "Bear" Bryant museum tracks how many kids in Alabama are named after the legendary coach. There are over 600 variations on file so far, and four names have already been added this week.
I will never understand why my parents didn't name me Bear. Instead, they saddled me with the name Kerry. Kerry Flowers. Along with my name, my birth certificate should have read: Will get beat up at recess.
Jack's decision to attend Auburn went against the grain to say the least. Brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins all attended the Capstone. He called us this week and said, "Hey! I saw this cool t-shirt in the bookstore that said 'Auburn Grandfather.' I want to get it for Granbuddy for Christmas! What do you think?"
We both shook our heads in silence. Such a happy, optimistic kid.
"Hello? Did y'all hear me?"
Christy spoke first, careful not to throw a wet blanket on his thoughtfulness. "Oh Jack, I don't think that would be such a good idea. You know Granbuddy. He would never wear it."
I chimed in. "Yes. Buy it. And on the card write: The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to give Granbuddy an Auburn souvenir." (see origin of Christmas quote here.)
Whether Jack gets the t-shirt or not, Christmas will be interesting when our family migrates back to Foley to catch up. For the first time ever, we will not be a homogeneous group. One of us has gone rogue. And maybe that's good thing.
Homogeneous groups tend to be a tad biased. Discussions are often fraught with blind spots, like when rabid college footballs fans agree that everybody cheats . . . except their school. Imagine what will happen when we are watching the bowl games at Christmas and my dad says, "That Urban Meyer, he recruits illegally." And Jack teases back, "You mean kinda like Nick Saban?"
The angel on top of our tree would cover her eyes in anticipation of what would happen next.
But Jack may be onto something. Diversity in a group--whether opinions, ideas, or suggestions--makes a team better. Let me show you what I mean.
#1. Diversity prompts INNOVATION. With an Auburn student in the group, I imagine opening gifts will be a tad different this year. No longer will Granbuddy kick things off by saying, "What is forty feet long but has only 14 teeth? . . . Any front row at Jordan-Hare Stadium!" More likely, my mother will probably say something like, "Jack, how was your first semester?" And the rest of us will learn about new dorms, new landmarks, and new traditions.
Leaders know that diversity of thought stimulates new thinking. New thinking leads to fresh perspectives, and new perspectives force us to approach problems differently. Without this type of innovation, businesses become obsolete. Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
In the graphic below, look at the possibilities for leaders to tap into diverse thinking in their organization.
#2. Diversity perfects PROCESSES. At first glance, this may seem like an oxymoron--after all, a process by definition is a repeatable series of steps or actions to achieve a goal. But introducing diversity into a process changes it, makes it better.
Parents, do you remember how regimented you were with that first baby? And then, that second one came along and your parenting processes changed. The diverse personalities between the two children force parents to revisit and refine their approach.
Good leaders and good parents both realize that doing the same thing the same way over their tenure is not realistic. Instead, they take what is good and perfect it, and throw the rest out. By the time the kids leave, parents have it down pretty good. (Maybe that's why they are so laid back with grandkids!)
#3. Diversity provides for CUSTOMERS. Most businesses attempt to get customers from every yellow circle in the above diagram. That is a wide variety of people. A diverse group you might say. Wouldn't it be smart for leaders to employ and listen to diverse workers who can identify with the way customers think?
Knowing my family, Christmas will bring out the best in them. I bet you'll see them venture into the dark side of the Bama Fever - Tiger Pride store in the mall and come out with something orange and blue for Jack. Of course, they will be wearing caps and sunglasses so none of their friends can identify them, but baby steps are fine right now.
And isn't that what good business is all about? Suspending your own desires and wishes by trying to align yourself with your customer. That takes some diverse, different thinking. Much like when Jack decided to go to Auburn.
Yes, Christmas will be fun this year. Both the crowd and the gifts might have an orange and blue sprinkle in the sea of crimson and houndstooth. I just hope Granbuddy's orange and blue sprinkle isn't cinder blocks.