by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
LET’S NOT MINCE WORDS about workplace diversity. It’s tough to get it right. On the one hand, your greatest chance to create a successful, productive team today involves a diverse membership. On the other hand, the more diverse that membership becomes, the worse the odds are that the team will survive long enough to produce those results. That’s diversity’s paradox and challenge.
After exploring diversity for our forthcoming book, Team Genius, my coauthor, Mike Malone, researcher, Faaiza Rashid, and I believe that most companies are blind to the big picture and make a common mistake: They view ethnic and gender diversity as simple, legal boxes to check off. That’s fine as far as it goes. But ethnicity and gender balance shouldn’t be the end point of your diversity campaign. They should be the starting point. Most of your gains–and your chance to soar in the global economy–will come from taking a larger view of diversity.
Let’s consider three more kinds of diversity.
–Cognitive diversity. People think differently from one another. We all know that. But few of us give it much consideration–sometimes to our regret–when we assemble teams. As a result, ethnic and gender diversity can look good on paper, especially when everyone gets along well. Yet in action, your team still doesn’t work. …
… –Age/experience diversity. Experienced people are the backbone of successful companies–except when they fall into the habit of saying “been there, done that” to every new idea. Conversely, the young and inexperienced have no boundaries. Which balance is right for you? …
… –Proximity diversity. In this age of global work teams and remote collaboration, proximity is no longer supposed to matter. Except that it stubbornly does. Physical proximity of teams, in fact, is an important predictor of success.