– Why Diversity, Inclusion and Acceptance are Essential to Organisational Success
Is the pursuit of diversity an effective way of inoculating against unconscious bias? Why value diversity at all?
There are many ways to look at this issue from the perspective of race, gender, culture, belief systems, lived experience, age, ability/disability and learned social bias. Many organisations have begun to realise that tapping into alternative perspectives, whilst often uncomfortable and sometimes confronting can truly produce better processes for problem solving and innovation.
Whilst it’s important to have predictable processes and outcomes borne out of following what is often purported to be ‘best practice’, too much of that may cause conformity and a lack of challenge to processes or outcomes. In this age of social and business disruption, the challenge is how to do things differently to get a better result whilst not relying on the old paradigms?
If I have surrounded myself with similar thinking people with similar life experiences and education, there is more than a slight risk that I will continue in the usual way. That approach tends to work just fine until an innovator disrupts the tried and true model, as recently experienced by the hire car industry.
What to do
This doesn’t mean you have to throw out the proven methodologies; however, it does mean you should examine the premise of the methodologies, as well as who is involved in them and what barriers exist. Consider the way decisions are made in your organisation and who makes them. Can alternative views be truly heard? Are there mechanisms to improve inclusiveness?
If not, consider how to involve a broader thought perspective and more importantly, how to ensure that alternative or even opposing and particularly different views are evaluated and utilised.
Be aware of the fact that an individual can’t be inoculated against unconscious bias – it’s unconscious by definition!
Therefore, be prepared to undertake careful planning and devise deliberate strategies to educate and convince the senior management team and each level of management below about the benefits of inclusion of diverse thought. Like all new strategies, a conscious and perhaps self-conscious approach will have to be adopted prior to acceptance and full utilisation.
How to do it
The prime thing to do is acknowledge the potential benefits of diversity on making sound and innovative decisions. This may involve sourcing some external assistance to analyse existing processes and communication channels. It will certainly mean creating an environment where you trust your colleagues to point out your unconscious bias and you can inform them about theirs in turn. Start with involving your current workforce and embracing its diversity. Over time you may extend to recruiting with the concept of thought diversity as key criteria. To avoid conflict within the workforce, ensure the environment is conditioned and receptive to thought diversity.
Review your decision-making processes and challenge the organisation to audit not only the way decisions are made, but also the persons making them. How can you improve the channels of communication to influence decisions? What fundamental assumptions are not being challenged? Above all, begin the dialogue to discuss the value of inclusion and acceptance of diversity. It may be the key to your organisation’s long-term sustainability.
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