DIVERSITY & INCLUSION

You’ve probably heard the saying...

 

diversity is being invited to the party,

inclusion is being asked to dance

 

... coined by Verna Myers, the renowned diversity thought-leader and current Netflix VP of Inclusion Strategy. At Inventum Consulting, we like that saying as a quick and easily digestible explanation, but ultimately, understanding Diversity and Inclusion is open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people.

 

 

For us, diversity is about celebrating difference, equally...

 

Different experiences, different ideas and opinions, different viewpoints. What makes us all different – we are all unique – are our values, our culture, our personality type and our own personal experiences – these are the ingredients that make us who we are. We can be different because of our gender, our race and ethnicity, our sexuality and gender identity, our religion, our disabilities, our age, our social, cultural and economic experiences. It is also our thinking, our cognitive diversity (or diversity of thought).

 

Some argue, rightly in our view, that all ‘physical’ diversity leads to cognitive diversity simply because our individual uniqueness informs a unique perspective and interpretation of the world around us.  

 

The empirical and anecdotal evidence that supports the view that difference, in whatever format, is beneficial in a corporate environment is very compelling. The psychologist Irving Janis created the theory of ‘groupthink’ in the early 1970s to explain how homogenous groups started to take on certain traits that were essentially ‘bad’ for business. These traits include the group’s feelings of invulnerability, overestimating it’s decision-making ability, unquestioned belief in the group’s morality, illusions of unanimity within the group, and stereotyping those who oppose the group’s view. Diversity helps combat these traits by introducing ideas and opinions that may be counterintuitive to existing accepted norms. This is where innovation is borne – from the edges, from the ideas that are fresh, new, different, counterintuitive. And again, the evidence that innovation is the most important aspect of commercial success is very clear.

 

Successful organisations foster innovation and seek it out as a matter of course, delivering products and services to customers that sets them apart from their competitors. Reports such as McKinsey & Co’s ‘Why Diversity Matters’ and ‘Delivering Through Diversity’, Deloitte’s ‘The Diversity & Inclusion Revolution’ and ‘Diversity’s New Frontier’ and Harvard Business Review’s ‘How & Where Diversity Drives Financial Performance’ are just a few examples of the many papers that support and provide evidence that diversity leads to innovation leads to performance’.

 

For us, inclusion is about the environmental conditions that enables that diversity to thrive...

 

It is a corporate culture that encourages that diversity to live and breathe, to have a voice and to be treated equally. It's about valuing the diversity that exists so that, when all opinions, views and ideas are free to come together, it’s the best ones that rise to the top, no matter who expressed them. Its also about ensuring everyone has the same opportunity to have an impact, that everyone is valued for their merits and their personal opportunities for growth, development and success have nothing to do with how they may be different from others. It sounds easier than it is to achieve.

 

Human beings have been tribal for most of our anthropological history – we codify, we classify, we disseminate, and we form opinions of others based on their differences to us. Those opinions can take the form of unconscious bias – where we view others that are like us as our ‘ingroup’ and those different to us as part of an ‘outgroup’ – and we feel less empathy and connectedness to those outgroups. These traits, that may have kept us safe for many thousands of years, no longer apply in the digitised, international, connected globalised world that we live in now.

 

So, it requires conscious effort – from management, from Human Resources departments, from an entire workforce to rewrite our tribal codes and welcome those who are different - new value comes because of our differences, not in spite of them.

 

We also believe that inclusion comes before diversity.

 

Creating an environment that is welcoming to all enables the conditions that encourage diversity to thrive. It will happen naturally. To borrow a quote ‘if you build it, they (all of us, equally) will come’.

 

At Inventum, we help companies build and develop the conditions that incubate diversity and its tremendous benefits. If we want change in the world, achieve true equality and all benefit from diversity, then this normally starts in the workplace – what becomes acceptable and normal at work is taken into the outside world by all those who experience its benefit. Organisations have tremendous power for social change – but it's not about forsaking commerciality and performance to do the right thing - for us ‘the right thing’ is also the best thing. 

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