Just over 2 years ago I was mid way through a 12 day solo trek over the Western Himalayas in Ladakh, the far north of India. Something happened that’s stuck with me ever since.
This was my guide, Riga.
He was a buddhist and he knew a lot about the Himalayan wildlife and the respect you must pay to the vast and temperamental mountains.
I admired his outlook on life.
It was day 3 and after a good 9 hours walking we had covered around 24km. We made it into Markha Village and dropped our backpacks at a tiny homestay.
Butter tea for the win
I thought of her as Mumma Bear.
She had a gentle smile, tilted her head forward and looked into your eyes—as if she had been expecting you for a long time. She had a calming presence—one that lifted you from the aches and pains of the day’s hike.
She made us butter tea. Literally tea made with butter. Tastes weird at first, but helps the wind-chapped lips.
The sun was setting and Riga reckoned we should head outside to take some photos before nightfall. My feet were in agony so I slipped on my flip flops and we walked for a few minutes to find this spot.
At these altitudes the temperature falls rapidly when the sun drops off behind the mountains. After about the 4th picture and a moment of pause, Riga and I headed back to the homestay to warm up.
On our way back, we could see an elderly lady looking a bit panicked. As we came closer, we could see what had happened.
Her horse had escaped. It was running circles around her.
By the time were close to the scene, 5 or 6 men had joined-in to help the lady catch hold of her horse.
Immediately Riga joined the race. He’s a practical, outdoorsy and capable chap, and within a few minutes he managed to corner the horse.
I joined the effort.
As Riga began to move in on the horse, I came up behind Riga on the lefthand side.
I had flip-flops on and suddenly felt a bit unqualified to help.
What the fuck to do if this 300kg horse starts heading for me? I was trying to remember school rugby tactics — go low and take the legs from an angle?
Riga edged closer, he swiped for its neck — but the horse escaped and dashed away.
After a few more failed attempts from the other chaps, I could hear a rattling sound.
It was Mumma Bear from our homestay.
She was carrying a box of animal feed, shaking it to attract the attention of the horse.
As cool as a cucumber she walked towards the horse’s elderly owner. In an instant, the horse trotted towards her for a handful of food.
Mumma Bear calmly took the collar from the owner and after the horse had munched a few more biscuits from her hand, she gently placed the collar around the horse’s neck.
No fuss, no running, no rugby tackles, no flip flops, no broken ribs, no weapons. She handed the horse over to its owner.
I howled with laughter. She was looking at the floor as she walked back to the homestay but I could see she was smiling at my lols.
The gents looked at each other with an awkward smile that leaked a hint of embarrassment — we were using brute force to solve the problem, we didn’t try different.
Sometimes instead of try harder, it’s try different that wins the race.
This is one way to look at how diverse teams can outperform homogeneousness teams (same gender, same backgrounds, for example).
We hear so much of company diversity because it is ethically the right thing to do —which it is— but let’s have those arguments side by side with the very real probability of better decisions and better performance that come from a diversity of backgrounds, genders and opinions.
Take from this what you will, but for me, this serves as a little reminder.
Perspective is everything and if your teams lack diversity, there’s a good chance you’re driving with blind spots that are hiding real opportunities.