Following the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and industries were forced to step up on their digital transformation journeys, working overtime to expedite the adoption of digital channels and platforms.
For enterprise digital transformation, you might think the most important assets are ones like technology prowess, deep pockets, and an open and innovative outlook (i.e., digital startups not encumbered by old thinking and bureaucracy). Think again. The most important asset actually is diversity-spawned creativity in business. People at all levels of an organization (especially at the top) who work extremely well together and possess very different worldviews and ways of working must have one thing in common: the ability to rethink today’s reality, deeply respect and enhance each other’s contributions, and reject age-old “truisms” as not necessarily true anymore. That approach to diversity has been in place at a few companies for some time. It must now become mainstream.
Diversity of thought
“We believe that diverse teams are more creative, more open-minded, and more productive,” said Jean-Paul Agon—ex-president and CEO of L'Oreal USA—nearly two decades ago when he ran the company’s US unit. That kind of thinking helped L’Oreal grow at a historic rate, with 2021 sales surpassing 31 billion Euros under Agon’s leadership. In short, companies undergoing digital transformations need an extremely diverse set of people–in terms of experience, intellectually, culturally, and racially. This is not likely to happen if most of them are of the same gender, race, country, religion, and sexual orientation. The kind of “creativity” you get from that kind of homogenous group is likely to be uniform and incremental. It’s often called “group think,” and will contribute to the demise of once-great companies in a world that now requires radical diversity in thought, experience, and points of view.
In fact, several recent studies point to the power of radically diverse management teams at every level of an organization:
The inclusion of diversity
But please realize that simply hiring such a diverse range of people at every level alone won’t make creativity reign. People from different countries, cultures, religions, genders, sexual orientation, ages and so on must embrace such diversity – not just tolerate it. They need to seek out the opinions of people who may seem foreign to them and think differently from them. They need to bring them into the tents of strategy-making, business process redesign, business model revolution, and skill building.
That’s the inclusion part of diversity, and it’s just as important as having a multitude of very different people from very different walks of life.