Diversity

Diversity or not diversity! That is still the question.

The current workforce in Denmark consists of many constellations, eg. defined by age and gender, personality, education, technology understanding/use and so on. Finding ourself in one or more of these constellations, we tend to define prejudices about others and put them into boxes with labels on. In waves, these prejudices and beliefs are actually expressed as business trends. Do you remember when –

— women was said to be the best people managers, because they had the ability to care in their DNA – while men were said to be better at controlling finances, because they were better at focusing and aiming high?
— extroverts were said to be better leaders – while introverts were only suitable for case processing?
— candidates from business schools were said to better at running companies – while academics were better suitable as teachers?
— young workers were said to be better at adjusting to work life conditions – while the elderly opposed changes?
— young workers were said to be the future of business life because they were born with an Ipad in their hands – while elderly people would find it hard adapt and fall of the digital wheel?

Oh sorry. This is not ‘when’. This is ‘now’. We still hear these and many other prejudices in everyday working life.

What makes this situation even worse is the fact that we – as humans – tend to find comfort in surrounding ourselves with equals. Clones!

Many managers still choose to surround themselves with their mirror images in order to get the job done – their exact way. They wish to avoid being challenged of others with different opinions. They believe that synchronous and aligned behavior is a shortcut to quick results. The even tend to believe that matching clothes will increase their performance. People with this kind of simple thinking are in charge of companies. Of political parties. Of NGO’s. Of public institutions. And though the value of ‘Diversity’ have been a hot topic for years, the majority still seem to fall back on old habits and routines when it comes to choosing their closest colleagues. Establishing groups. Maybe because it confirms us in our own work identity.

While I acknowledge the shortcut and recognize the temptation to make the easy decision choosing the well-known, I increasingly see the value of diversity. Diversity among team members is the foundation of the strongest group performance. The strongest manager has the courage to surround her/himself with colleagues with different opinions and behaviour. And the strongest company or organization understands that competitive advantage is based on diversity among their employees. With diversity, we fight habitual thinking. With diversity, we establish the foundation for innovative thinking.

I would like to encourage you to share an example, where you chose the unknown. The incomprehensible. Perhaps you employed a colleague completely different from yourself. You searched for a group that you could not mirror in. You searched for a mentor who was your dimensional contradiction. You let go of a clone of yourself. Or truly learned to acknowledge your opposite colleague.

Here is my example to share. Some years ago I took over group of managers. One of them was really my opposite. In the beginning I was truly confused about his behavior. And for a while I almost saw him as an alien from another planet. On every level. But then I started to focus on our shared values. And it turned out that we had a lot of shared values. Having the shared values as the foundation of our collaboration, I was able to value the differences in our thinking, behavior and choices. I learned a lot about myself and realized he made me stronger. That he actually filled in my weak spots. And it was amazing to feel such a strong constellation with a colleague. I still think about him now and then – missing the feeling of having him ‘cover my back’.

What is your story? Send a PB if you don’t want to go public. And how do you suggest we fight clone thinking?