Diversity is a central topic these days. Of course, diversity is critical due to the inherent needs for more equality, fairness, and representation. But there is another reason diversity is important. One of the most powerful benefits of diversity is diversity of thought.
To stay competitive and relevant, great organizations must constantly self-examine, improve, grow, and evolve. They need to challenge the status quo. Good business necessitates examination from every angle to uncover new approaches and discover new opportunities.
People operate within their own perception biases. They are attracted to people who look, act, and think like them. They are drawn towards others with similar experiences and backgrounds. They recruit people from within their own networks. If companies do not proactively focus on diversity, they end up with teams of people who think and act alike.
Homogeneous backgrounds lead to homogeneous thinking. Homogeneous thinking limits the realm of possibility, which thereby narrows pathways to new opportunities.
Great ideas are often bold and innovative. They can be risky. They typically require a compelling pivot, redirection, or shift in thinking. By engaging in healthy debate and evaluating problems from multiple angles and perspectives, a team can craft better solutions.
Our individual thinking, just like our perception bias, is shaped by our own experiences, environment, education, culture, and personality. Companies serve diverse customers. These customers come from all different backgrounds – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, age, economic status, geography, etc. Thus, companies need diversity in their teams, in their leadership, and in the boardroom to best understand and serve these different constituencies.
A Deloitte 2013 publication called Diversity’s New Frontier states, “Diversity of thought goes beyond the affirmation of equality…Diversity of thought can bring an organization three key benefits: 1. Diverse thinkers help guard against groupthink and expert overconfidence, 2. Diverse thinkers help increase the scale of new insights, and 3. Diverse thinkers help organizations identify individuals who can best tackle their most pressing problems.” (Diversity’s new frontier – Diversity of thought and the future of the workforce)
The more diverse the participants, the broader the viewpoints and perspectives. The more creative the problem-solving. The more thinking out of the box. The more innovation.
As the saying goes, “Ideas can be life-changing. Sometimes all you need to open the door is just one more good idea.”
May the best idea win.