This presentation is a response to the call of this conference to embrace difference.
Difference is more than simply a driver or inhibitor of creativity, it is the elementary source of all information. It defines us and is often how we define ourselves. In humans difference is embedded in the act of perception, yet we rarely stop to understand the nature of difference as an idea. This talk argues that difference is the basic building block of knowledge, but its properties are often overlooked, misunderstood or ignored.
Embracing Difference means understanding it, and this involves a shift in seeing. Social science, which here includes management learning and education, has struggled to reconcile varying perspectives between disciplines, between methodologies, and between individual researchers. “Difference” has generally become a synonym for “disagreement”. This will not do, as it does not address the complexity of issues we face or the multidisciplinary response required.
This presentation uses the context of post-experience management learning in a European Business School to illustrate some of the problems and pitfalls of difference, as well as the tremendous potential of an awareness of its true nature. It will propose three fundamental, universal properties of difference; zero-dimension, inter-connectivity and generativity. These form a conceptual framework for multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners to re-evaluate their perceptions and dialogue.