Diversity: It Is Good

Let’s talk diversity – I’m all for it. Yes, I’m an older white guy, which ironically means people may listen to me more about diversity. Yes, I accept the irony.

In fact, since I’m being blunt, let’s get to it – arguments against diversity are almost always rooted in sexism, racism, and territoriality. They have nothing to do with making things better and everything to do with people’s bigotries and wanting things to be “for them” which is often a pretty narrow definition of “them.”

So let’s talk diversity in groups, businesses, boards, teams, etc. and why it’s great.

Diversity brings a wider range of experiences and knowledge. Having people be different means they have an understanding that others may not. When you’re trying to deal with complex situations like life, you kind of need broad knowledge.

Diversity also ensures less groupthink. When you have a diverse team or group then people think differently. Yes they may conflict and that’s good. Less homogeneity decreases the chance for everyone to decide the same stupid thing at once. If people make a bad decision, at least it may be a more informed bad decision.

Diversity also means that people may express ideas clearer and learn more. When people are different, then you can express your own differences. You’re also going to pick up a lot more from a diverse crowd than people just like you. You might even learn what you don’t know.

Diversity also brings a range of skills to a situation. You never know quite what you’ll need to solve a problem, and may not even know you need to know. Even when people have the same skillsets, diversity means it’s still different from person to person. Writers, artists, coders, leaders are not the same – and that’s good. Mix them up to get better chances to solve you rproblems.

It all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So why do we often hear arguments against it?

As noted, I think it’s bigotry and territoriality.

We know diversity brings broader skills but we hear the tired old bigoted argument of “we should hire by ability” which really means “those people are getting special treatment.” Well when everyone in a team or group or organization is all alike people are getting special treatment – by being like everyone else. I’ll trust diversity to solve a problem over an organization of people who want everyone to be the same and call it “talent.”

That also leads to territoriality – people against diversity as, though they oft wont admit it, they want to be surrounded by people just like them. It’s a peculiar kind of mental inbreeding, and just about as healthy for people as the actual inbreeding of royal families throughout history. Yes, it may be comforting, but if you’re trying to lead a company or solve a problem then comfort may not solve your problems.

Of course as we’ve seen many an organization that was undiverse fail, and people escape without consequences – and that’s part of the problem. People get away with all sorts of crap by being “part of the in crowd.” Diversity challenges that layer of protection – when everyone is not 100% “the same” there’s more chance you might get held responsible.

So I’m all for diversity. I’d like to actually work with people, not a hall of mirrors. The world would be a better place with more of it.

Steven Savage