We have all heard the chorus of experts telling us that business success depends on our diversity policies. The champions of diversity tell us diversity must be central to our strategy and organizational culture. The reason given is that as companies become more global, we must reflect a more global perspective.
While I agree with the basic concept of the value of diversity, I think there are dangers here that we should consider. But first, let’s talk about the benefits of diversity.
- Accessing a diversity of perspectives helps us avoid blindspots. No individual has a perfect understanding of reality. We need to hear from others to gain insight into the issues facing our organization. Being able to tap into these diverse perspectives will help us avoid our own cultural blindspots.
- Increased diversity helps us serve more people. It may help us identify a niche of need and opportunity formerly hidden to us.
Third, an emphasis on diversity can help the company enjoy the insights of all its people. Great ideas don’t always come from the top. Ideas have a strange ability to surface from the most surprising sources.
- Diversity creates an environment where everyone feels they belong. This sense of inclusion affects employee satisfaction. Happy employees perform better.
The problem with the diversity movement is that it focuses too much on ethnic diversity and not enough on idea diversity. It does this because it fails to see people as diverse individuals. It treats individuals as members of a group and assumes that all members of that group think the same.
When you focus on diversity of skin color, nationality, sex, age—whatever other group category in your repertoire—diversity of ideas becomes secondary. Ideology becomes the new basis for discrimination. Conformity to an ideology becomes the new orthodoxy. Those who espouse alternative ideas become the heretics. Diversity of groups replaces true diversity of ideas.
The current emphasis about diversity is healthy as long as it creates an environment where diversity of ideas can flourish. Diversity of ethnicity or gender or age will not help your organization unless you also allow for and encourage diversity of ideas. When the diversity champions only focus on group identity, we end up shutting down dialogue about ideas.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.