As the word “diversity” has evolved in our culture to become a code word for the inclusion of racial, gender, and ethnic minorities, we sometimes lose sight of the key element of diversity that makes it significant in our companies and organisations. The real value in diversity is in utilising the differences in THINKING. Since our identity groups – age, gender, ethnic, etc. – influence the way we think, consulting a group of diverse individuals will result in variations of perspective that researchers have shown to be valuable in reaching more accurate conclusions and producing better decisions.
Homogeneous groups result in homogeneous solutions -
A homogeneous group, even a very smart one, cannot offer insights outside the collective realm of its experience, and because the members all resemble each other in the way they think, they don’t even know what they don’t know. If we think of expertise as a toolbox of skills, the list of skills that are the ‘best’ is relatively small, so that people who have them tend to be alike. It is that sameness that means the group as a whole knows less than it otherwise might. Adding in a few people who have less of their particular expertise but who have different skills will actually improve the group’s performance.
Astute business leaders have recognised the value diversity can add to their enterprise’s decision making. Because women bring a different set of experiences and thinking skills to the organisation, including them in leadership groups should result in more effective decision making, but only if we value their differences as differences and don’t try to make them fit into the same old archetype.
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