Disruptive Diversity: Key to Success
When I was in college, many students openly accused college administrators of conspiracies. That was a bridge way too far for most of those administrators: they were simply overwhelmed by the levels of change and activism they were facing. But I could see why my fellow students thought otherwise. My explanation at the time has served me well for decades: I called what I observed “the conspiracy of like-mindedness.” Those administrators, and through the years, corporate executives, government officials, political operatives, and non-profit boards, all struggled with the same phenomenon: decision-making limited by the narrowness of their ranks. Too often, those ranks were exposed to the same experiences, cultures and thinking as their colleagues. That’s a limitation we all face, and one we must guard against.
Expanding Our Vision of Diversity
That decision-making infirmity is not overcome just by demographic diversity. Adding women, African-Americans, Latinos, individuals with disabilities is good in its own right, and itself appears to improve organizational performance. However, demographic diversity doesn’t assure the diversity we need in experiences, cultures and thinking, We need such diversity to disrupt “but we’ve always done it this way,” and “that’s worked well for us before,” and “it’s not broken, yet.”
- What talents and styles do we need for success for a particular discussion or task?
- What combinations will help us disrupt the expected, and cause/anticipate/adapt to the new?
When we talk about the shortcomings of panels, meetings, teams and collaborations, I suggest that we fail most often because we don’t really answer and follow through on these questions.
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