What Diversity "Problem"?
"Dealing with Diversity Problem." "Clearing the Diversity Hurdle." Assimilating the Rainbow within the Workplace."
You've read dozens of business-journal headlines like that, right? And do you agree with me that they're silly?
Diversity problem? Hurdle?
Diversity creates one and only one thing: opportunity.
Business, in the mad global marketplace, needs a rush of serious creativity. Creativity is invariably, a byproduct of sparks, new views, juxtaposed interests, etc. How does a company acquire those assents? Diversity!
All other things being equal, which company (car maker, textile producer, bank) is going to create the more interesting product or services?
The 17 members of the executive group of Company A file in the boardroom. All U.S. born (whoops, sorry, one Canadian). Fifteen are white males, best guess at average age: 47. One female: One Japanese-American. Dress: suites, suites, suites as far as the eye can see.
Or this one?
Company B's 16-person top team noisily straggles into the boardroom attired in everything from Brooks Brothers to Calvin Klein to Banana Republic to Venice Beach leftovers. Six of the 16 are white males, four are women (two white, one African-American, one Hispanic), plus two Indian-born males, two British-born male. Average age: about 42, with two or three who are clearly on the low side of 32.
It's a no-brainer: Company B by 20 furlongs.
Sure, I'm oversimplifying. Or am I? It seems obvious to me that Cacophony, Inc, a wild mixture of colors, sexes, styles, and ages will almost automatically generate and pursue more interesting ideas than Homogeneity, Inc. My argument is a simple statistical one: The variety of experiences, from birth onward captured in a Company B executive meeting is immensely greater than in a similar meeting at Company A. An unusually high level of curiosity among Company A's OWMs (old white males) makes virtually no difference; Company B's folks bring hundreds of years of um, diverse perspectives to bear on everything from soup to software.
Is Company B a sea of tranquility? Of course not. Diversity implies clashed, subtle and overt. People (men and women, London born and L.A. born, 20-somethings and 50-somethings) will bridle at what they feel are bizarre -- and dumb -- views held by others from time to time. The Company B top team (and the rest of the company, too, assuming its makeup mimics the top) could probably benefit from a hefty does of sensitivity training. But the point of such training is not to "clear a hurdle" or "solve a problem." On the contrary, it's to help the company reap maximum possible strategic leverage from its diversity advantage.