Why Diversity is a Business Issue You Need to Understand

Written by James O. Rodgers

Often, diversity is simply defined as a social issue. When most people hear the word “diversity” they immediately think of affirmative action, the Equal Opportunities Commission or gender equality. We hear others talk about diversity and we think to ourselves, “These are important issues. Someone ought to look after them. Companies should be more diverse.” While all of this may be true, and while very real social problems may exist, these things have very little to do with diversity management.

The fact of the matter is that, most of the time, companies already have more diversity than they know what to do with. So attempts to make a company more diverse than it already is can be counter-productive if most of the diversity already present is being wasted. If you don’t understand your diversity strengths already, you can’t add more to the pool.

Diversity management is more about recognizing what is rather than what ought to be. It is aimed at creating a strategy and a capability and is not related to social issues. Instead, diversity management aims at solving business problems and spurs innovation and productivity. 

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Very seldom now-a-days, do you find yourself in a workplace scenario that is populated by people who see the world in exactly the same way that you do. Every person’s own particular living history creates a unique perspective on the world with which they are confronted. From this perspective, it is possible for each and every person to develop and communicate unique and true insights. In many cases, the diverse array of perspectives, represented by those who work within a given company, is an untapped resource. Only by recognizing the value of this psychological diversity can we hope to harness the creative and innovative power that we all possess as human beings and use it in a business setting.

Companies are populated by a multitude of different clusters of experience and different ways of thinking. If we want to, this is something that we can struggle with by attempting to make everyone think the same way. Following this strategy, we are going to end up with a lot of unhappy, unproductive and uninterested workers. On the other hand, we can simply accept diversity as a fact of life and develop strategies for utilizing this diversity to our advantage. If you, like me, think that the second option is the more attractive one, then you are starting to understand the task of diversity management. It is this sort of diversity, conceived of psychologically rather than demographically, which can spur innovation and productivity in a business.