If something yields the result we want even once, it’s human nature to do that exact same thing again. In general, people are creatures of habit. Just think about how many times you’ve gone to your local coffee shop and ordered the exact same latte. Once you found the mixture of ingredients that your taste buds enjoy the most, you probably chose to stick with that.
However, in business, this “stick to what you know” mentality often means that companies hire the exact same type of employee over and over. The thinking is often that if employee X is doing a great job and everyone gets along with everyone, that the smart thing to do must be to hire more people exactly like them. This mentality leads to hiring managers seeking out candidates that identically mirror their existing workforce. They’ll look for the same educational background and skillsets, source from the same narrow list of companies, and look for similar personality traits during interviews. Before you know it, you end up with an entire staff that looks, thinks, and — to a degree — acts almost exactly the same.
Not only does this tend to result in a reduction in diversity of thought (among other aspects of diversity), but it can prevent the company from realizing its true potential. Fresh new perspectives are necessary to bring forth bold new ideas, challenge long-standing internal thinking, and provide a more complete internal representation of the customer base. In his article, “The Importance of Diversity of Thought,” journalist Rick Bowers writes that big ideas come from unique perspectives. Safe thinking won’t change the world, but diverse thinking can. Think about the impact of inventions like the iPod or the smartphone. Great ideas like those were generated from teams willing to challenge the status quo, to try things untried, and maybe even to fail before wildly succeeding. Most companies say they want their employees to be dynamic thinkers and provide the company with big new ideas. What most don’t realize is that for this to actually happen, you need a wide variety of people engaged in the conversation.
There are many different aspects of diversity. Diversity of thought, as discussed above, is a key factor in building successful teams. Additionally, diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, geographical location, and more should also be embedded into a company’s hiring practices. Anna Powers writes in a 2018 Forbes article that a study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that diversity increases the bottom line for companies. The study also found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.” Particularly amongst management ranks, companies tend to lack the racial diversity that frequently leads to a stronger bottom line, a leadership team more representative of their entry-level staff and the communities they serve, and an increase in creative strategic thinking.
To read the full Harvard Business Review article, click the link below:
Authored by Naomi Wheeless.
Illustration by Ilona Nagy/Getty Images
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