Most people enjoy music. Listening to the words and the melodies and how all the instruments come together to create a beautiful song. “Diversity is like an orchestra, you have different people playing together, the parts and wholes, all making beautiful sounds.” – C. Schwabenland
Courtney L. Vien explained that welcoming different opinions can lead to better decisions making. Diversity management is essential in terms of cultivating a team that is innovative and creative. This is because you are bringing different individuals together with different perspectives, opinions, and experiences. Evidence also indicates that diverse teams are more productive – when it comes to decision-making a diverse team can be of great value.
On the other hand, we have the psychological phenomenon of groupthink. This occurs when the desire to have consensus overrides individuals’ desire to present alternatives, think critically, and challenge ideas. It can pressure individuals to conform and not speak their minds. Again, with decision-making, if groupthink is a phenomenon present in your team it can compromise the team’s ability to make the best decision. Joe Gerstandt stated that when groupthink is present the benefit of diversity can be lost. Diversity means different, and Gerstandt said that for him it shows up in disagreement, which he calls the engine that drives a robust decision-making process.
As part of their diversity edition ADLIB asked a few leading organisations that fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion, what they consider as the potential consequences of a lack of diversity and inclusion could be:
- Lo Wright, Senior Partner Manager at Forgerock stated that if a company lacks diversity it lacks ideas. If your team consists of the same type of people, whether that be gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, work experience, tenure at the company, upbringing, background or a combination of, you’re going to end up with the same results. If you keep producing the same ideas, you are going to become outdated and get left behind.
- Jon Mahony, Lead Partner of Deloitte in UK Systems Engineering explained that from a business perspective a lack of diversity and inclusivity results in lower employee engagement, lower productivity, and overall lower profitability. Furthermore, the lack of diversity and inclusivity results in less creativity and narrow perspectives on solutions. We are all aware of stories, some not too far in the past that resulted in the creation of product and solutions that resulted in serious consequences due to the lack of incorporating diverse perspectives or the lack of including diverse people in the design of the solution. Examples such as seatbelts only being tested on male crash-test dummies and artificial intelligence that made incorrect judgements on the likelihood of population committing crime all thanks to bias in the training data.
- Zoe Taylor CEO of Sparkol stated that a workplace that lacks diversity and inclusion is limiting its potential for business growth, employee engagement, and employee retention. Where diversity and inclusion are present, employees tend to feel more connected and are more likely to remain with the organisation.
Sabrina Clark, associate principal at SYPartners, a consulting organisation that specialises in organisational transformation suggest the following eight practices for leaders for improving diversity and inclusivity in an organisation:
- Establish a sense of belonging for everyone. If you want individuals to bring their best self forward, a sense of belonging must be established. If someone feels that they have a connection towards others and or an organisation they feel like they can be themselves. It may also increase engagement and creativity and creates a safe environment.
- Empathetic leadership is key. For real change to happen leaders need to buy into it. Only when the entire C-suite steps ups to own diversity and inclusivity will it thrive.
- A top-down approach is not enough. Forcing procedures and desired behaviours from top to bottom does not create commitment, but rather compliance.
- Quotas do not automate inclusion. While complying with hiring goals may boost diversity numbers, it will not automatically create an inclusive culture. It is therefore important to create and sustain conditions that promote inclusion.
- Inclusion is ongoing, not once off-training. Inclusion, like any other form of behaviour change, required individuals to identify key moments to build new habits.
- Maximise joy and connection, minimise fear. Fear can be used as a motivator it also encourages people to narrow their perspective. This is the opposite of what desired effect of inclusivity. By framing challenges as possibilities can create the potential for positive change.
- Forget fit and focus on helping individuals thrive. Creating a culture where every individual can contribute to their full potential requires investigation of the current systems and processes to uncover blind spots and then finding new possibilities of redefining it.
- Consider your brand. Brand and culture are intertwined. While on the journey of building a more inclusive culture one must consider the relationship between what is happening inside and outside of your company. What is your brand saying about who you are as a culture?
In closing, what you can take from this is that creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the workplace can be a competitive advantage. Some organisations realise the value of creating such an environment but are not actively busy implementing practical solutions to do so. AT the end of the day, it is each organisation and leader’s decision – to use it as a competitive advantage and utilise it; or to acknowledge it and not pay much attention to implementing ways to enhance diversity and inclusivity. However, the world is changing and we need to change with it, and if you can use something to your advantage, why not?
C. Schwabenland. (2016). Metaphor and Dialectic in Managing Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.metamia.com/analogize.php?q=diversity
Courtney L. Vien. (2016). How group think can damage your organisation. Retrieved from https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/newsletters/2016/oct/groupthink-damage-organization.html
John Rampton. (2019). Why You Need Diversity on Your Team, and 8 Ways to Build It. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/338663
MindTools Content Team. (nd). Avoiding Groupthink. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_82.htm
ADLIB. (2019). Consequences of Lack of Diversity & Inclusion. Retrieved from https://www.bristolmedia.co.uk/news/4882/consequences-of-a-lack-of-diversity-and-inclusion
Sharon Florentine. (2019). Diversity and inclusion: 8 best practices for changing your culture. Retrieved from https://www.cio.com/article/3262704/diversity-and-inclusion-8-best-practices-for-changing-your-culture.html