Many companies have diversity and inclusion programs. Generally, these are efforts to make sure that groups which are sometimes estranged and underrepresented are represented, heard and included in meaningful ways in the business. Such companies see diversity as a strength that benefits the business.
I don’t have a problem with such programs, of course, but I do want to suggest that I think we often take the easy way out in how we measure our success at diversity and inclusion. Let me explain…
Most measures of such programs include stats on how many minorities, women, gays and a few others groups are represented in the larger enterprise. While that may be an interesting and at times telling stat, it does nothing to guarantee that we are pursuing and accomplishing the most important and difficult type of diversity that truly benefits business which is diversity of thought.
It seems prejudiced to assume that all people of one gender/race/ethnic background/sexual preference or other grouping think the same way about how to accomplish business objectives. What does one really have to do with the other? Looking at easily quantified externals and self-described non-business categorizations tells us nothing about the point of view one brings to the table when solving business problems.
The type of diversity that best brings value to a business is a broad range of ideas, viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences that contribute to creativity, innovation and accomplishing business objectives. That means we need to do better at the hard task of searching out people with diverse ways of thinking. Traditional groupings that drive diversity programs don’t guarantee that.
Recent events which trigger this thought relate to the political divisiveness that separates the country. Many don’t hear others or attempt to understand anyone other than those with whom they already agree. That tells me we may need far more efforts at learning tolerance of those who think differently from us than we need to concentrate on those who belong to different demographic groups.
Let’s not forget the harder effort of valuing diversity of thought while still making sure we are intentional about more easily quantified efforts.
Leap year lesson #315 is Seek diversity of thought.