In Diversity Awareness month, I have paid attention to the momentum building around “Diverse Thinking.” In particular, I’ve focused on how it gets conflated with the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and becomes a convenient alternative.
Supporters of this approach may argue that a diverse set of personality types and leadership styles can be more important than demographic diversity that might focus on gender, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation. However, it makes me nervous to see the rise of these arguments in isolation, as they essentially encourage us to do less for demographic diversity when we must be doing more.
Diversity of thought is a measure of success and a positive outcome of DEI initiatives but threatens to become a cop-out for organisations who wish to take less responsibility for poor representation in their firms.
We must avoid thinking of these initiatives in isolation. Organisations can only really achieve diversity of thought by including employees from all demographics with varied life experiences.
To nurture diverse thought leadership and to incorporate a genuinely successful DEI program, organisations must reinvent their environment.
What is the Ideal Workplace for DEI?
Imagine what it would be like if you worked at a company where everyone you interacted with was interested in what you had to say?
Not only that, but you were always given your turn to speak, and when you spoke, no one interrupted you?
Imagine if everyone felt this way and everyone’s opinion and the experience were equally important.
Imagine that you felt at ease to share your thoughts because you knew they mattered and that there was no rush to finish, that you were appreciated and encouraged to contribute.
Most of all, imagine you worked with people of different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, and points of view, and, thus, you could share your thoughts without any fear of discrimination. How might that change how you interacted at work?
What we are envisioning is an environment Nancy Kline describes as a system for psychological safety. It is why Simon Sinek says good leaders make you feel safe and what Brene Brown describes as a pillar of good leadership.
In an inequitable system, enabling a company culture where employees feel safe and bring their best to the workplace is excellent for improving DEI.
Reinventing an Environment where Diverse Thinking Can Flourish
Developing a diverse workplace must start with hiring and continue through employee feedback loops and retention strategies. If an employee or potential employee cannot see someone who looks like them in a business, they automatically feel less connected to their co-workers and organisation.
Essentially this leads to a feeling of discontent with the workplace. When we lose the sense of belonging, we no longer see each other as friends and colleagues. This can be polarising and can reduce productivity and clear communication.
We cannot achieve diversity of thought without real demographic diversity, and neither can flourish without the right environment. If we want to see the world change, it cannot be designed by the same group of people, who can create their own interpretation of what they believe the world needs.
At Delta Capita, we have developed a global inclusion network of colleagues of different nationalities, backgrounds, and experiences to ensure we continue to progress against our inclusion and diversity goals.