Lack of diversity is a major business risk

Lack of diversity is a major business risk

Lack of diversity is a major business risk.

Do I have your attention?

To truly connect people to an idea such that they will take action, it is necessary to frame it in a way that impacts something that matters to them and their business.

Risk is a keyword for business leaders, yet in amongst all the areas they assess around risk, I find that very few actually consider the risk to their business of lack of diversity.

Have you truly recognised that unless diversity is at the absolute core of your business you are putting the business at significant risk?

Lack of diversity is real

First, let’s state the obvious, it is worth highlighting. This week I was on a call with an expert and highly experienced organisational consultant in Israel, who noted:

“if diversity was embedded in our way of life, we wouldn’t have to state it”

Powerful words, distilled to simplicity.

Taking the contrary view

The conversation with this individual in Israel came after they recently picked up a post I wrote nearly two years ago on this daily blog, called: “Avoiding group think – Ipcha Mistabra“, where I wrote:

“Every leader has as part of their responsibility consideration of risks that face their organisation. How many, though, truly consider the risks of such group think and take steps to address it? What, in fact, can we do to address it?”

I then went on to review the concept from the Israeli army of “Ipcha Mistabra”, originating from the Aramaic in the Talmud, meaning: “on the contrary, it appears that…”

I encourage you to read that full blog around methods to take that alternate, that contrarian view, then let’s finish by talking about why that is of value.

I also note that my conversation with this leader from Israel was of huge value to me to learn from their different background perspective, which in some ways challenged my thinking by bringing their own diversity of thought to me.

Risk from lack of diversity

Many years ago I began a business relationship with a large company in Cayman. I was asked to attend their board meeting to talk about the project. At that meeting was a board member who was very “prickly” indeed and seemed to challenge every single idea that was proposed by any board member or by me as the outside consultant.

I found it quite odd at first, until I saw the chairman and founded smiling as this board member interjected with contrarian thoughts and challenging questions. I realised that this individual was on the board precisely for that reason. Their role was to take the contrary view.

Over time I got to know that chairman very well, with many a beer sipped under a grapetree on the beach on a Sunday afternoon. Within those conversations, he recounted story after story about how the presence of that individual had both helped the board make different decisions and also, critically, sometimes to avoid making decisions that would have cost the company money.

If nobody is challenging the orthodoxy through diversity of thought, you place your business at real risk.

So, look closely and honestly at your business to see how diverse you are. Focus in particular at diversity of thinking, much but not all of which will come due to simply having people on your team from different background and life experiences.

Oh, and to close with, diversity in the team, in your community, will only truly support you in addressing risks and seeing new opportunities if you have a culture where people are free to speak up and stand up for their ideas. A simple closing thought but one that so often companies fail on.

Don’t “tick the box” on diversity and being open to different ideas, you must live it!

Also published on Medium.