Busting the Biggest Myth About Diversity

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Diversity goes far beyond the mere notion of quotas. It's how modern teams raise their collective intelligence and make smarter decisions.

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Conversations about diversity are some of the most difficult ones we have at work, in part because of how they’re framed. Rather than emphasize the proven benefits of diversity, people come to see diversity as separate from the organization’s larger goals. We come to believe we’re sacrificing talent for the sake of leveling the playing field.

This is the great myth about quotas.

But as Khalil Smith, NLI’s Vice President of Consulting, wrote recently in Forbes, quotas are the wrong way to think about the point of diversity in the modern era of team-based work.

“When the main measure of work is something like units per hour, it can make sense to hire all of the ‘best’ people to churn out widgets. Likewise, when the model for leadership is command and control, where leaders know best and employees are expected to follow commands and deliver without question, it can make sense to hire and build homogeneous teams with no eye towards optimizing decision-making,” Khalil writes. “But if you work in an industry where problems are complex, non-linear, being disrupted, or creatively demanding, then diversity is a mandate, not a nice-to-have.”

In fact, diverse teams perform better financially, think more creatively, and make smarter decisions. In other words, they support business goals; they do not distract from them.

As we’ve written before, this does tend to complicate workplace interactions. Diverse teams have a harder time being inclusive. But it’s important for leaders to remember that diverse talent is an investment in future success. The key is to believe in those people and the value they bring.

Click here to check out Khalil’s full article on Forbes, “How to Stop Talking About Diversity in Terms of Quotas.” 

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