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Diversity of thought and social business

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Back in August I wrote a blog on the importance of diversity to a business.  Rather than discuss the traditional measures of diversity based upon racial or gender lines however, it looked instead at diversity of thought.

A report published by Deloitte came to similar conclusions.  Called Diversities New Frontier it looks at the critical role diverse thought plays in the success of any organisation.

“A lot of organizations drive toward consensus, but we’re trying to say, ‘hey, that’s not the best way of doing things,’” says Nes Diaz-Uda, senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP and one of the study’s authors.

Deloitte go on to highlight five ploys you can use to increase the thought diversity in your own business:

  1. Hire unconventional people – During recruitment, there is a tendancy to hire people that are just like us.  Research has shown that recruiting managers tend to like people that reflect them, which is not great for diversity of thought.
  2. Understand the talents people have – One suspects that most employees are akin to icebergs, with a great many of their talents and abilities unknown and unutilised in the workplace.  A crucial part of having a diverse workplace is actually knowing what you have.
  3. Solicit feedback – I’ve written a lot recently on the importance of feedback, and managers need to do all they can to encourage it.  It’s no use having diverse opinions if people are too afraid to share them.
  4. Utilise reverse mentoring – Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of this advice, I’m more inclined to think that encouraging a supportive culture in whatever way is the best approach.  Help and advice should flow up, down and across the organisation.
  5. Be open to new ideas – The employees within your organisation are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas and insights.  A corporate culture that is open to ideas will inevitably look to those outside the organisation as well as those inside.  Removing the not invented here culture and opening oneself up to ideas from all corners is a crucial part of being diverse.

I’ll leave you with four things economist Scott Page believes are required for diversity to become effective.

  1. The problem needs to be tough enough that no single person will always come up with a solution
  2. The team members need to have some intelligence in the general area of the problem
  3. The team members need to be able to incrementally improve solutions to the problem
  4. The team needs to be large enough to have a genuinely diverse talent pool

So in other words, diversity only matters if the diversity contributes to the problem your team is trying to solve.  This isn’t all however.  Diverse teams also need enough similarities to bind them together as a cohesive unit.  If you’re trying to build a new product or crack a new market, then everyone on your team has to believe in that shared goal.  They can have different ways of achieving it, but they have to be similar in their belief in that goal.

Diversity is of critical importance to our success, but I believe diversity of thought is easily more important than diversity along any other line.

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