Including Differences

Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” That quote encapsulates how our lack of knowledge of others can alter our perceptions. In business, if you’re not as successful as you want to be, it could be time to take a fresh view of your organization as it relates to diversity of: thought, perspectives, styles, ethnicity, race, gender and culture.

Most of us are familiar with the drawing that shows two faces or a vase. Initially, you will see just one or the other image. However, after hearing a different viewpoint, you can then see the opposing image.

Business is no different. If you surround yourself with leaders who are just like you, with all the same ideas, there will be little room for innovation and ideas that challenge us and the status quo, which is necessary for a business to thrive.

According to English cleric and author Charles Caleb Colton, “We owe almost all our knowledge not to those who have agreed, but to those who have differed.”

As stated in the book FYI by Korn Ferry (2015), seeking to understand different perspectives and cultures is a skill that can be learned and results in a work environment that will help you learn and benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience that diversity brings. It opens doors to new ways of thinking and new opportunities for building the success of your organization.

Companies committed to diverse leadership and workforce are more successful. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company (2015) of 366 public companies, those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians, and companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry peers.

Additionally, in the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent. According to research from Bersin by Deloitte (2013), over a three-year period, diverse companies saw 2.3 times the cash flow per employee when compared to their less diverse peers.

The book FYI also states that in the increasingly global marketplace, business success is partially dependent on those who can interact effectively and respectfully with all. Research shows that employee engagement, innovation, teamwork, and the bottom line can be improved by truly valuing each other.

Essentially, diversity brings benefits that sameness can’t, substantiating the need for businesses to have a diverse leadership and workforce. The book says valuing differences will open doors to new ways of thinking and new opportunities for building the success of the organization. So how do you do this? (1) Seek to understand different perspectives and cultures. (2) Contribute to a work climate where differences are valued and supported. (3) Apply others’ diverse experiences, style, backgrounds, and perspectives to get results. (4) Be sensitive to cultural norms, expectations, and ways of communicating.

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision,” said Peter F. Drucker. Be courageous! Be successful!