Innovation is crucial to success, especially in today’s economy, and diversity is crucial to innovation.
But diversity refers to much more than race, creed, or gender.
Juicing creativity and innovation requires a strong diversity of both thought and skills within your organization—homogenizing your workforce dilutes the juice.
True mental diversity is about MAP and mental function, not just a race and gender. I’ve known managers whose organizations were mini-UNs with equal numbers of males and females, but they might as well have been cloned from the boss, their thinking was so identical.
There are three main ways to homogenize thought
- Hire all the same types, most often “people like me;”
- scorn/belittle/reject anything that doesn’t conform with your own MAP/ideas/approach; or
- allow others in your organization to do the first two.
As your organization grows more diverse you want to celebrate controversy, encourage disagreement, and enable discussions—all within a civilized framework that debates the merits of ideas, not individuals.
Skills homogeny is just as detrimental to innovation. As with MAP, people tend to gravitate towards people whose skills are within their or their group’s comfort zone; worse, managers may be unaware of the full range of skills available within the group.
The fix for skills homogeny is far simpler, since it requires awareness and mechanical action, rather than changes in MAP.
Use this three-step process to better identify and access your group’s skills
- Skills survey: Have each person in your group create a complete list of all their skills, not just the ones they’re using in their current job, but also those from previous positions and companies, as well as skills they’ve developed outside of work. Have them rate each skill 1-5 (five being the strongest) based on their expertise. (I’ve yet to see a manager do this who wasn’t surprised at the results.)
- Skills set matrix: Using a spreadsheet, create a matrix of the information.
- Repeat and update: go through the entire process and update the matrix twice a year; add every new hire’s info immediately.
Be sure to consult the matrix every time you develop a new position or replace someone, whether through promotion or attrition.
Knowing all this gives you tremendous staffing flexibility. For example, you may have someone in your group who’s developed the needed skills on a new project and would be thrilled to move to the it. Then, using the matrix, you can design the new position to fill other skill gaps, both current and future.
The end result is a well-rounded organization of people inspired to learn new skills, because they know that they won’t be relegated to a rut just because “that’s what they’ve always done.”
Viva La Difference is the rallying cry for the anti-homogenizing movement.
Image credit: ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr