This is one of those posts that starts with an apology or a disclaimer. I hesitated writing it, because what I am writing can be so easily misinterpreted, or I may be very naive/poorly informed. (I’m less worried about the latter, I know I need to learn)
Diversity is important–it’s critical for our organizations. We need to have diverse organizations across all dimensions: Gender, Race, Orientation, Religion, Nationality, Age and so forth.
Diversity is important, not just because it’s the right thing to do. From the privileged white male perspective, we have to give women, people of differing race/ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, orientation, age more opportunities at all levels of the organization.
But there is a different way to look at diversity. The more diverse we are, the better we perform as organizations. The results from very diverse organizations, the time to results from those organizations is far better than non-diverse organizations. At the risk of being crass, we grow faster, make more money, and out perform the non diverse organizations.
There are tons of research data about the power of diversity. The research shows, the more diverse the decision making group, the higher quality the decision. It makes sense, if we all have similar backgrounds (for example white males) we tend to fall into “group think.” We have the same experience, we are blind to the same things, we are literally prisoners of our experience–and lack of experience.
Particularly in a world characterized by disruption, massive change, overwhelm, complexity, and turbulence, we need to think and act differently. We have too much experience of failure because we aren’t thinking differently, because we aren’t opening ourselves up to new ideas/change.
So diversity is critical in helping us think and act differently. It is critical to our ability to innovate and change. It is critical to improve the quality of the decisions we make and how we act on/execute those decisions.
But there’s another, perhaps more compelling thing about the importance of diversity in decision making.
The time to decision, the time to results with diverse groups is significantly shorter than non diverse groups! Stated differently, diverse group move at a much higher velocity in their decision making than non diverse groups!
Think of it, from a pure business outcomes and success point of view, don’t we want to make higher quality decisions much faster? Speed is everything in business today.
If we think of it purely selfishly (though we shouldn’t), we are likely to have far greater success, much faster by having a highly diverse organization. So it becomes self defeating to do anything but increasingly diverse.
Being diverse is the right thing to do. It’s our moral and social responsibility to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. But producing high quality results, and high velocity is what influences much of our real behaviors. And we would not be fulfilling our responsibilities, as leaders in our organizations, if we weren’t seeking to aggressively build more diverse organizations.
I worry about much of the orientation, “We need to give women more opportunities, we need to give black/latino more opportunities,” or whatever position you have. Each of these groups has faced systemic discrimination for decades/centuries and we DO need to give them more opportunities.
But we need to give them more opportunities because it makes each of us, individually and collectively, better! And isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what we want to achieve individually and for our organizations? Shouldn’t we be aggressively be bringing diversity into our organizations because it makes us much better, faster?
We cannot hide our heads in the sand and ignore so much compelling data. Diversity improves the quality and speed at which we make decisions, grow and improve. It makes us better! If that is our goal (and I have no time for those who don’t want to grow and improve), then we must move aggressively in increasing the diversity of our organizations and changing our thinking.
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