The longer you’re here, diverse it gets

DiversityIt’s an old joke.  Someone brings up diversity and you say “We’re very diverse.  The longer you’re here, diverse it gets”.

Twice this week, my mind wandered to diversity issues.  I spoke with someone with whom I’ve developed a good networking relationship and he wants to introduce me to someone at a local company.  I quickly hit their website and clicked on the “About Us” page.  The diverse composition of their team at this small company truly struck me.  High mix of females in leadership positions, descriptions about LGBT affinity, other socially conscious affinities.  It is not like the typical Fortune 500 company.

It still does not seem very diverse out there.

A survey reported on by CNN last year shows less than 15% of F500 CEOs are female, and less than 17% hold the next four executive positions.  In my own research of companies, especially in technology, I nearly always see (at least) five or six males and maybe one woman in an executive role.

The second time occurred when another networking colleague had ideas for a new business but he wasn’t sure if it had enough teeth.  I suggested a brainstorming-type session or focus group where he could bounce ideas and gather feedback from a group of respected colleagues to get outside views of his ideas.  The diversity of thought from people with different backgrounds and experiences undoubtedly triggers new ideas and validates or disqualifies existing ones.

Do you think that diversity is an obligation, or is it deeper and more strategic?  How do you approach something that is “different”?  We tend to gravitate towards those things, people, and opinions that are similar to us and how we believe.  What if you took a second and thought “I’d like to learn more about that”, whatever ‘that’ is?  Your mind is opened to new ideas or a thought is triggered that leads you down a path that you never pursued before.

Diversity is good for your business.

It is both an obligation and is more strategic.  By encouraging inclusiveness in how you hire, how you discuss business strategy, how you segment your customers, and how you treat your employees, you will see benefits when everyone begins to buy into your culture of openness.

What if you have a very talented management team, but it is in a rut in terms of innovative ideas?  Bring in an outsider, either temporarily to facilitate strategic planning sessions, or permanently in a role if you need new blood.  A recent article, Let’s Argue About It, emphasizes the points of healthy dialogue among leadership, and having a diverse pool from which to draw only heightens the creativity.

Will a fresh set of  eyes and perspective help you focus again on growing your business and being successful?  Do you need an outsider to ask “why”?  Let’s have a conversation and see if there is an opportunity. All it will cost is some time and a cup of coffee.

*NEW* Discussion Questions (Write your answers in the Comment box below)

  1. When you look at your leadership team, how does their input help you drive your company forward?
  2. Is there a particular company’s culture that you respect?
  3. Have you ever personally gone from “di-verse” to “di-best”?
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