Diversity is not the problem. It’s the solution stupid!

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 15.08.37In talking to senior managers and CEO’s, getting the best out of diversity is a common topic. How do I get the sales rep to collaborate better with the marketingteam? Why are my employees are so focused on their own silo whilst they should connect more with other departments? How do we get real value out of partnerships with others? Over and over again, I read articles and see items on the news that talk about diversity as a source of problems.

What if diversity was not the problem but the solution to a lot of wicked problems? The evidence is overwhelming. Teams that come from diverse backgrounds and cultures are more innovative. Academic research from multicultural teams is quoted more in publications. Cities that have more cultures even realise faster economic growth. Mixed male/female management teams deliver better financial results. Need I say more? So what’s keeping us to embrace more diversity in our private lives, at work, and in society as a whole?

In the projects we have managed at Glassroots the over the past years, we noticed 2 blocking factors to get the best out of diversity and move to real collaboration and change. Fear of the unknown and the incapacity to listen.

  • Most of us prefer to stay in their comfort zone and hang out with people at events where they talk to the same people about the same topics over and over again. I notices this fear of the unknown in professional life as well: marketeers hook up with other marketeers, CFO’s hold annual conferences on financial-only topics, colleagues mostly mingle in their own teams…. But the really interesting conferences are the TED-like ones. Why? Because you discover new insights from diverse speakers you would never think about. Because they think differently than you do.
  • I see the same happening in private life. Are most of your friends just clones of who you are? Quite boring if you ask me. Don’t you have the most interesting discussions with people who are nothing like you? Who are a lot older or younger, come from different backgrounds, work on other stuff, come up with other ideas? Of course you would actually have to be interested in other people to have those kinds of conversations. The ability to talk but the incapacity to listen to others and discover their real interests is a second reason why we don’t embrace diversity as a source of solutions.

All organisations are in a constant modus of change. They need to evolve at the same speed their environment does, preferably even faster. Getting all the right actors on board to make that change happen, that’s exactly what we do at Glassroots. Those stakeholders are inside but also outside your organisation. Get the right people around the table, confront their ideas, talk about your goals and dreams but also listen to their interests, facilitate dialogue and look for common ground. Those are the necessary steps along the way to real change, supported by all stakeholders. It’s the only way to get from talking to doing. We can help you with every one of them.

Did you know that 75 % of senior managers have no clue on what’s happening outside their company (Prof. Herminia Ibarra, INSEAD, 2017)? That figure shocked me. Surely you are not one of those leaders that still claim to have all the answers to all the questions? In these ever faster changing times? Really? Just try having one conversation with someone completely different outside your comfort zone this week. It might be a a colleague from another department, a client, someone at your sportsclub or the guy standing next to you at the bakery shop. I guarantee you will learn something new, that is, if you are open to listen.

Elke Jeurissen, Co-founder Glassroots

 

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