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Diversity as a Business Strategy

-  By Donna Hamlin, Ph.D.

The topic of diversity is a buzz these days. It's discussed in board rooms about director composition, in human resource teams about employee mix, among teachers about classroom composition and - in all cases - professionals are assessing differing notions about the impact diversity may have on overall performance.

What is Diversity?

The first challenge is to define diversity. Governments audit companies to look for a mix of ethnicity and gender and to establish the diversity of the employee population. Some companies define it with more variables, adding cultural dimensions, such as country or origin, age, or personal factors - experience, skills, knowledge, background - that ensure breadth of experiences and perspectives are in the team.

The latest definition relates to diversity of personal work or leadership style. Based on extensive psychological research, four key patterns related to work style emerge: action-oriented, process-oriented, strategic, creative-oriented or people-oriented. The notion is diversity in thinking style improves overall group outcomes. Understanding these individual styles, managers are now rethinking how to constitute teams to improve their overall balance and effectiveness.

Does Diversity Make a Difference?

Early research in corporations indicates it does. Studies related to rate of innovation indicate diversity does increase creativity and ideation. A high correlation exists between research and development teams which emphasize diversity and the volume and quality of executable innovation they produce.

Additional studies indicate diversity - when supported by group culture with strong rules of respect individuals - increases quality of problem-solving within work teams. This improves delivery on strategic business plans.

A recent study of classroom results in New York City schools show students in highly diverse classes outperform those of more homogeneous ones.

Diversity as a Business Strategy

If an organization deliberately wants to increase its creativity, improve its quality of problem-solving, and create a culture where individuals are earnestly respected for their differences, recruiting for diversity is a smart move.

The same holds true with board composition. Board effectiveness is now considered to be a combination of both effective and timely processes, plus a healthy balance of board member styles. The theory is that a diverse mix increases overall emotional IQ and intelligence of the board. Raising board value certainly is a strategic move!

While research continues on the long-term impact of diversity, the early indications imply organizations improve and produce better results when they adopt diversity as a cultural intent. If diversity increases creativity, produces solutions with better tensile strength, and creates cultures where individuals feel respected, it is well worth the investment to make it a strategy in any organization which aims for sustained success.

Copyright with reprint granted. http://www.helium.com/items/1904693-diversity-as-a-strategy-in-business

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