A world devoid of colors, textures, and flavors would be a world without inspiration, taste, and beauty. Diversity of thought creates those colors, textures, and flavors. It also creates profitability through creativity and innovation, extends companies’ reach, and creates opportunity for their teams.
But what is diversity, really?
Diversity in the workplace can look like many things. Perhaps it’s having more women in positions that were previously dominated by their male counterparts or having a higher percentage of minorities in positions of leadership and influence. Maybe for your company, it means choosing people from different generations to help freshen the creative atmosphere and present new perspectives. The final arbiter of diversity, beyond the legal implications, is avoiding groupthink and promoting innovation and creativity. Walter Lippmann put it best – “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” How do get people to think differently? By fostering the different perspectives that come from diversity of all kinds – race, gender, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, income level, disability status, and any other difference.
Do you have it?
You probably have an EEOC statement somewhere on your website, and that’s good – we should all obey the law. That’s only the beginning, though.
Look at your workgroup at the micro level. Does everyone there look relatively alike? Is there a predominance of one phenotype? Do you all seem to share common personality traits? If so, it’s danger, Will Robinson – you’re probably not as diverse as you think.
If it makes you feel better, very few companies are truly as diverse as they should be. Some of it’s driven by sheer company size – it’s harder for a smaller organization to have broader representation, simply because there are fewer people to “represent.” But across the country, diversity is a real issue. Silicon Valley is notorious for its lack of diversity, and CNBC identifies that as its Achilles’ heel. While women are actually overrepresented by population in professional jobs, they hold only 25% of computing jobs, according to Forbes. The 2017 Women in the Workplace Study by McKinsey & Company shows that women struggle at every level in the corporate pipeline. There are only four black CEOs in the Fortune 500.
Is it really important?
No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. – H.E. Luccock
Being innovative and creative is the only foolproof plan to remaining relevant in a world that is constantly evolving. In an IBM survey of more than a thousand CEOs, creativity was identified as the most important leadership quality over the next five years. Third on the list was global thinking. It’s impossible to have global thinking with a uniform workforce. A diverse work environment plays a major role in the ability to be innovative. If two minds are better than one, a diverse group of people can create innovative solutions that can propel your company forward.
What should you do about it?
How do we harness diversity to foster creativity? Establishing diverse teams within your organization will get the ball rolling and allow you to see firsthand the changes you’re looking for. Create employee resource groups and committees focused on diversity. You’ll be able to inspire conversations that produce ideas, develop solutions and beget connectivity. Companies like Nike and USA TODAY NETWORK have already embraced this trend. Some are more expressive than others, but the results are the same – a better work environment for their employees, profitability in products and services and a more sustainable creative culture.