Leveraging Diversity

Could your manufacturing company utilize a retiring Brigadier General who has led small and large international groups in theaters of war and in standing up government infrastructure in countries in turmoil?

The typical immediate response is “wow! what a background. But what could he do for us with no experience in manufacturing?”

Hiring someone because they look different, or come from somewhere else is too often an effort to hit a target rather than hire the best.

When I was in the corporate world a global corporation was looking for a female executive to lead the operations of a technical division. I was told by the executive recruiter I had a head start because I am female. I had no problem gaining an interview because I not only had a strong background but also am a woman. I would have had a problem with getting an offer because I am a woman.

My confidence is sufficently high to know I was offered the role because I am competent. Competency and diversity are not mutually exclusive. I honor that company’s leadership for working to become more diverse in the 1980s, before it was “a thing.”

A room filled with Ivy League grads will generate less creativity than a room filled with intelligent people with diverse educational and life backgrounds.

When an organization repeatedly chooses to hire people with the same look, the same background, and the same thinking, the organization will fail. Maybe not today, but sooner than later.

If we can’t figure out how to leverage the experience and thinking of people unlike ourselves, we’re not very smart.

And that is true whether “we” are a group of black women, a group of middle-aged college-educated citizens, a group of McKinsey alum, or a group of new immigrants.

How do you recognize and leverage diversity?

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