Getting personal with diversity

Getting personal with diversity

There is something dark and nasty that we do with the English language.

We depersonalise it. We turn words into ‘terms’ and conversations into ‘engagement’ and stories into ‘narratives.’  We make the meaning and use of the word narrow, and often negative.


The latest depersonalised words doing the rounds are ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’. Or even worse D and I.

Once we have the label and even the acronym, we have already distanced ourselves from the meaning of the words.

Often we are doing this for expediency. We are in a hurry, and shortening, generalising, and depersonalising the word helps us to rush around in our busy worlds.

I just spent a weekend at a wonderful wānanga (workshop) on Te Reo Māori. For those reading internationally – that is the language of Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

We had an awesome session where we pulled apart words from the language to find their origins, their deeper meanings. It shone so much light on the richness of the language.

The thing is, we can do that in English too, but so often we don’t.

English has lost a lot of its reverence: through use in the news media, or mangled in the mouths and on the keyboards of business leaders and politicians. Sadly, words have become cheap.

When it comes to the word  ‘diversity’, if you dig a little deeper, it comes from a very beautiful word and a beautiful concept. Great words are about great concepts and layers of meanings.

How the words are used matters a lot. It is all about the context, and when used in a ‘one size fits all’ context, meaning is often lost. The definitions of words evolve with time. Diversity was once used in a positive sense in the development of democracy to ensure that there was not one dominant group with unbridled power over others.

At an even earlier time, the word was used in a negative sense – to divert, to keep people separate.

In the 21st century, we are developing a new definition of diversity, because the way we live today in a globalised world offers an opportunity for us to not be so separate.

The most obvious areas of ‘diversity’ are around ethnicity, gender, and ability, as these are the most physical manifestations of difference.  But diversity is about more than this, it is about diversity of thought, behaviours, preferences, identities, that may or may not align with how the world sees us in terms of ethnicity, gender or ability.

So let’s fall in love with what being ‘diverse’ means, and let’s take the ‘ity’ off the end of the word, because that makes it separate.   We can be DIVERSE, more than we can be DIVERSITY.  We can act in a way that is DIVERSE.

I’d like to offer up a 21st century meaning for what it can mean to be diverse in Thought, Word and Deed.

Poetry and music have verses. Verses are variations on a theme.  So too, in humanity, our differences are variations on a theme of our common experience. We all live and breathe, and die,  so we all share something as living beings. We share love. We can love broadly and we can love all, without condition. We can be infinitely diverse in our expressions of love, it need not have conditions.

So to be diverse to me is to love the twists and turns of life, of humanity.

Rather than having diverse intimate separation, it actually can very much be about embracing our commonality through love and connection in essence, and at the same time allowing difference, uniqueness and identity.

It takes something to do this. It takes something to be with difference and sameness at the same time.

Drowning in Communication That Doesn’t Connect

Drowning in Communication That Doesn’t Connect

It’s insane. People can message me at least ten different ways on my device.


Sometimes I catch the popup of a new message out of the corner of my eye and then it disappears. I’m left wondering: was it on email, What’s App, Facebook, LinkedIn,  Viber, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, a text, iMessage or even very occasionally a voicemail message?  


Probably the most unlikely and rarest notification today is an actual phone call.   It’s no wonder we now seem to talk less and less about phones and more and more about ‘devices’.


I’m drowning in notifications.


As the wonderful U.S. poet Marie Howe observed, we spend more time staring into our screens than other people’s faces.


And here’s the rub, and the tragic side effect. The more ways there are to connect, the worse the quality of the communication and the more narrow the views I wish to hear.


However fantastic the number of pixels, that content, wherever it is from, is just not human. It lacks all the subtleties, intuitions and soul that exists in human interaction.


Now don’t get me wrong, I love the access that technology is giving me: to ideas, people, lives and realities… to the beautiful diversity of the people and environments of our planet.


But in the overwhelming reality of choice overload, I select more and more what I want to hear. I edit out anything uncomfortable, different from what I like to hear, or that I simply do not like.


Here lies the comfortable zone of the silo, zinging as an ever diminishing echo chamber where there is total agreement to my world view, opinion, and reality. I only reach out to ‘like-minded’ people.


And the more we all do this, the more separate we become from one another.  When we engage with difference it is at arm’s length, vicariously, as if the realities of others are some kind of animation.


Come to think about it, when did we start talking about communication, engagement, and narratives, rather than simply just talking, listening, writing and telling stories?


So much language we use today has been designed to create distance, or some convoluted sense of objectivity.


Business speak, government speak, all this officialised language is alienating greater and greater numbers of our populations.


We do really only have a few degrees of separation, but we make it seem like there are huge distances in one another’s realities – across ethnicities, ages, genders, abilities, economic status,  let alone geographic distances.


The work we are doing with The Weave is all about getting to grips with our differences, owning them, but also believing in our common humanity.  The Weave is about how despite our differences, our unique identities, we can come together around our humanity, our love for a fellow human being, however different, however far they are from our comfort zone, or however un-like minded they are.


It is a conversation, not a magic solution, but it is based on the belief we can evolve, we can grow, we can put an increasing dent in the inequality.




Grey is the New Black…and White


Maybe it all started when we invented the printing press. Maybe it happened much, much earlier, when ink was first put to page. Either way, we made language into something black and white.

It dramatically shifted the way we communicate – from the spoken word to the written.

Spreading the printed word created enormous opportunities for learning, growth and exploration. It also created great separations: those who could read, those who could not, those who had wealth to print and distribute.

Monarchs, politicians and priests dominated the written word and spelt out what they saw as black and white, in terms of morals, mostly to keep themselves in power. Divide and rule, kill bad people, praise good ones.

As the passing of the first quarter of the 21st century rapidly approaches, technology is giving us access to an unbelievably overwhelming amount of information and data.

So what is black and white? What is right and wrong, good and bad? And most importantly, what is true and what is false? Today more than ever it is very often very unclear.

‘Fake news’, memes, mockumentaries, post-modernism, echo chambers, the difference between what we believe is fact and what we believe is fiction blurs.

Well, get used to it!

There is no going back now.

So is this a great opportunity, or a descent into chaos about the truth?

How on earth in today’s world do you hold someone to account about what is true?

The answer lies in there being no right answer!

If that sounds like a riddle, then maybe it is, and maybe our lives have always been a riddle to unravel as we go.

I wrote The Weave in order to open conversation on new ways of communication, based on a very ancient method for communicating.
The use of metaphor and story to deepen our connection, engagement, knowledge and growth has been around for many millennia before we invented the printed word, or even the written word.

Our world has always been about shades of grey. Black and white, even in the science of colours, have never been absolute.

Aotearoa New Zealand is a place that is often shrouded in cloud of ever changing hues of grey, white, black, rainbows – every colour that one can imagine.

What we hold in common as humanity is often intangible. It is in the realms of what we call love, heart, soul and spirit.

What we perceive as our differences are often found in our cognition, our emotion, our intellect.

If we start to dig a little deeper in reflection, in contemplation, in nature, in peace, and even in solitude, there is an undying and unspoken love available.

Sometimes it is found simply by observing nature. Sometimes it is found from what some call tuning into a more universal energy, that potentially goes beyond time and space as we categorise it in black and white.

So maybe the big black ‘space’ of our universe is like our brain – endless, virtually unquantifiable, grey matter.

People often don’t like the colour grey. It occurs as drab, not distinct, not vibrant, or specific. And that is the point really. Grey is an opportunity for reflection, perhaps finding the mystical in the shifting mist.




Introducing The Weave Workshops: A New Twist to an Ancient Technology

Introducing The Weave Workshops: A New Twist to an Ancient Technology

Today communication breakdown and disengagement is epidemic. There are more and more communication tools and less and less connection.

People are not united in vision, values, purpose or actions. Results are varied. Diversity of culture and of people is not embedded.

From governments and corporates, to small businesses, to not for profits and iwi, productivity and innovation is low.

The Weave© offers a rich and deep technology to engage people across cultural divides, enabling unity, while empowering individual cultural identity, including ethnicity, gender, spiritual belief, ability, or age.

Outcomes in The Weave© workshops include:

• Strategies to weave together diverse world views
• Building team cultures across diverse roles and skill sets
• Uniting governance and management teams
• Embedding vision
• Building communication and story sharing capability

The workshops are led by Andrew Melville building on 30 years experience as a facilitator, communicator, journalist and engagement specialist.

The Weave© workshops kick off in 2017:

Tuesday January 24
Thursday February 16
Monday March 27

All sessions run from 9:30 am to 2.00 pm.

Full Fee: $450.00

Register at:

Weaving New Solutions With Ancient Technologies

Aymara woman weaving

The best story I heard in 2016 was about how the ancient weaving practices of Bolivian women are providing a solution to babies dying from holes in their hearts.

A special device similar to a little parachute is woven from a flexible metal and then feed up an artery to the heart where it fans out to seal the hole.

Researchers found that the accuracy and the dexterity of the indigenous weavers offered a more precise and lasting solution than using a modern technology to make the device.

Weaving is humanity’s most ancient technology, pre-dating agriculture and the development of ceramics. It is a practice that in essence is exceptional simple, but once the simple technique is mastered, can lead to greater levels of complexity.

However, it requires a balanced concentration of body, mind and spirit.

If we go back to the origins of every culture in the world, from the Americas, to Europe, to Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, weaving has been critical to our survival. It is no accident that for so many cultures, the physical weaving of materials and the metaphysical weaving of stories about the tapestry of life are entwined. The simple practice of weaving grounds our understanding of the complexity of a woven universe.

There is no doubt as we move into 2017 that we will experience the world speeding up. Computer speeds, new devices, new apps, greater access to technology, more big data, is all going to chew up space in our brains.

It was over 20 years ago that Information Fatigue Syndrome was identified in a study called Dying For Information.
In 1996, people were already suffering indecision, anxiety, and ill health from information overload, mostly via the Internet. Discernment to peacefully navigate information and reflect to seek simple insights is where we must grow.

Solutions for our evolution and wellbeing in the future across economic, social and environmental measures lie in simple solutions from the past, in ancient cultures that are in the DNA of all of us.

My book The Weave, the Surprising Unity in Difference explores the opportunity we have to use the models and the metaphors of weaving to create teams, communities and families that embrace diversity and innovation to build a greater future.

email for more (simple) information on The Weave workshops and mentoring in 2017.


The Weave: The Surprising Unity in Difference – New Book Available Now

We’re delighted to announce the launch of my new book – The Weave: Surprising Unity in Difference.

The Weave offers insights and pathways for leaders to build authentic cultures by using stories to unite groups in their vision and to give people a sense of belonging, of motivation and inspiration.

This book is for managers and leaders of teams looking for better ways to engage diverse groups and individuals. It offers tips and tools for:
• anyone seeking to run a project where the diversity of the group can become a source of strength
• ways for government, health, education and infrastructure providers to remove silos and get everyone on the same page
• anyone looking to improve their ability to communicate, influence and bring out the best in people who think differently to them

To order a copy of the book click the link below!

$27.50 NZD + $5 Shipping

Sourcing the Sauce

culinary set isolated on white

Great cooking is always about a great sauce.

Some chefs spend days rendering down a stock made from bones, meat, fish or vegetables, spices and herbs. Often they will claim some secret ingredients that bring it all together as a taste sensation.

But the principle is always the same. It is about taking the time to cook something down to its essence and bringing together just the right ingredients. Where an alchemy has occurred in the chemistry of the mingling ingredients.

Mayonnaise is one sauce where a magical chemistry occurs where two ingredients that never usually mix; oil and water, are blended to create something delicious.

If you mix oil and water without any other ingredients no matter how hard you beat them, they will always stay separate.

The trick is using another ingredient, an ‘emulsifier.’ Egg yolk does the trick. It has molecules that can attach to both the oil and the water, bringing them together as one.

Once you have the oil, the water and the emulsifier in just the right quantities, you can blend a smooth glossy mayonnaise.

People are just the same. Some can have very differing beliefs, attititudes, behaviours and views of life that are like oil and water, chalk and cheese. They just won’t mix.

If you want to create a great sauce or mayonnaise with a group of diverse people, what is the emulsifier?

What can weave people together so they can create something delicioius, something that people will desire, something that will inspire?

What ingredient can connect disparate people?

Where can we find a unity in difference?

I once worked with a group of Māori wood carvers. Their work tells the crucial stories and history of their culture and was at risk of dying out. They came from different tribes that had over the centuries often been at war with one another. Politically, there was conflict over which tribes stories and history took precedence over others.

When the carvers got together, they realised that the further back in time that they went, the more unified their stories were. The stories from the beginning of time were the same. The big stories of the universe, and how the earth and people had evolved were the same. They were about humanity, above and beyond tribal differences.

The same can be said for tribes, cultures, societies and communities all over the world.

What is our emulsifier that can join us all? And at the same time allow us to remain unique and distinct, as individuals and as different cultures?

We still want to taste the different ingredients in a great sauce, but we want to enjoy how it all comes together.

Source the sauce.

Know Your Place


Navigation is about triangulating where you are.

You identify three points, and you have located where you are.

Knowing your Place is also about understanding a trinity of who you are and where you are from.

1. Your place- geographically
2. Your place – where you welcome others
3. Your place- the legacy you create

Knowing your Place also requires another mighty threesome to be in balance; heart, mind and body.

Knowing your place will ground you in every environment and every interaction.

Why is this important?

Knowing who you are and where you are now, where you have come from, and where you are going are critical to effective engagement with others.

Today people want to know your back story, your current story, and the story of the future you are creating.

Knowing your Place is more than identifying with one geographic spot, that of your birth or your upbringing.

A nomad (both digital and physical) can Know Their Place as much as someone who has lived and worked in one place for many years.

It is about a knowing, a belonging, an identification with place, self and others than will ground you.

Most indigenous cultures start from a place of seeking to know your lineage and where you are from. Many consider our lineage to connect right back to the beginning of time and the creation of the planet and universe. And if you are into metaphysics, you can follow your DNA back to when were were an idea for an atom in the primordial soup.

But that gets very deep.

And that is great, because Knowing Your Place is about taking a deeper look at where you fit.

In English Victorian and Edwardian times the phrase ‘know your place’ was to ‘put you in your place’ in a hierarchy or stratified class system. Today we don’t have to do that. We can connect with our natural world, and the nature of our worlds of family, teams, groups, society and people. And take a journey to identify our place.

Our Place.
Your Place.
This Place

Sense of Place.

Place is a many layered concept.

I think of a metaphor for fly fishing. To be a great fly fisher, you work to cast your line to place it gently on the surface of the water. Your aim is to replicate an insect alighting on the surface of the water. The more attuned you are to your environment, the place you stand, the grace with which you move, your attention to the micro world of insects, and movement of current, and wind, the more you will find the sweetspot of place, to replicate the delicate movement of an insect.

A sense of knowing your place is akin to being ‘comfortable in your own skin’ and the world around you. Knowing your place allows you to embrace uncertainty, diversity and change.

Success is About Telling More Love Stories

Fire heart

Most people would say love stories are about romance, falling in love, boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl etc.

Most people also might say that it is mostly women who like love stories.

Chick flicks, romcom, romance novels.

But all the best stories are always about love.

It depends on how we define love, and too often today we narrow it down to romance, sex, food, dogs and children.

The thing is we all love love, even people we might describe as hard, cold or, impersonal love love.

It’s just that too often we judge what love should look like.

Love is about focus and alignment that creates wellbeing and happiness.

When we share stories about what we care about we are telling love stories.

And what we care about might manifest as everything from a nice house and a nice car, to our child, our lover, or humanity as a whole.

It is all about love.

So let your love of what ever your focus is infuse all your communication.

Love stories are always stories of both loss and gain, sadness and happiness, and that is the story of our lives.

Find the heart of what you care about, share that as a love story and you will connect and resonate powerfully with others.

Love Your Neighbour But Don’t Hang Out Together Every Day.

Neighbors Loud Music Noise

How do we balance out what we want with what others want ?

Doesn’t this just have to be the biggest question we all face as human beings?

Getting what we want, living the life we want, but getting on with others when they might want something quite diifferent from us.

It happens in families, at work, in politics, in religion, in race, everywhere we interact with others. We are social animals, wanting to belong, and then at the same time we get really annoyed with people and don’t want them around. How contrary!

So how do we work it all out and find the perfect answer?

The first answer is that we don’t. Our lives are perpetually evolving. We have to find beauty in the flaws, the challenges the imperfections and the journey both rocky and smooth. Absolute perfection, absolute order, 24/7 happiness is an illusion.

I’ve got neighbours who are very different from me, but we have got on really well for the best part of 20 years.

We don’t live in each other’s pockets like good friends, but we don’t ignore one another either. There have been times we have hung out a lot, and times where we have not said much to each other for days or weeks.

We have not always agreed on things, and in fact sometimes we have some very different and opposing views on things. But we get on. Some where along the line, we have built a deep mutual respect, a respect of difference, and a respect for what we share in common.

There is a love, and you can say in a certain way, it is an unconditional love, the kind you have in families where you might not get on, might not have everything in common, but you are family, and you love one another.

Seems to me to Love Your Neighbour should come from a place of love, of respect that does not mean going out of your own way to the point you are not doing or living the way you want to.

Loving Your Neighbour is being free to disagree with them, to be annoyed by them, to live a totally different life from them, and not tolerate them out of obligation or avoidance because you feel you SHOULD. It will never work.

So the answer to achieving world peace with a better community of diversity in thinking, lifestyle, beliefs, ethnicity and ability is accepting that we always all be different from one another. And in fact we would probably hate it if we were all exactly the same, surely we would be like robots!

As the great community builder, Peter Block puts it:

” Dissent is the cousin of diversity; the respect for wide range of beliefs.

This begins by allowing people the space to say “no”.

If we cannot say “no” then “yes” has no meaning.

Each needs the chance to express their doubts and reservations without having to justify them, or move quickly into problem solving.

“No” is the beginning of the conversation for commitment.

Doubt and “no” is a symbolic expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy.

It is when we fully understand what people do not want that choice becomes possible.

The leadership task is to surface doubts and dissent without having an answer to every question.”