Diversity is a key mental model in MBM and a key part of our culture. The Guiding Principle of Respect is:
Treat others with honest, dignity, respect and sensitivity. Appreciate the value of diversity. Encourage and practice teamwork.
With so many things in the news lately – some good, some very bad – that seem to draw attention to the many differences among people, I believe now more than ever that MBM organizations need to appreciate the value of diversity.
This mental model can be difficult to understand because (at least in the US) the word “diversity” has come to have two connotations: legality (in terms of protected classes) and physicality (only visible differences matter). The result of these two strong connotations is that many companies have a legally-driven approach to diversity. In other words, the diversity they care about the most is the kind of diversity that keeps them from getting into trouble or physical diversity that can look good on publicly-facing websites.
In MBM organizations, we absolutely follow the laws and regulations of the land. So the part of diversity that many companies spend a good deal of time and energy on, is actually part of the Guiding Principle of Compliance. I’m assuming all MBM organizations are doing that piece of it, and if you’re part of an MBM organization where you have questions about the compliance part of diversity please reach out to your HR community, as they are typically the best people to answer questions.
There’s an aspect of diversity that is so much deeper than the compliance-related parts. If you look at the dictionary definition of diversity, it simply means “differences” or “variety.” So if I were to take the phrase from the Guiding Principle and replace it with a synonym, it would read “appreciate the value of differences.” To my ear, that has a different ring to it that the on-the-street definition of diversity – one that is much broader than just physical differences.
So what value can we get from differences among employees?
- Connection with our customers: It seems to me that the US is getting more diverse all the time – people with different passions, backgrounds, living situations, etc. — if we cannot understand our customers, then how are we going to find ways to create value for them? Having employees that help us understand the wide variety of people who we want to serve can create tremendous value.
- Innovation: Innovation by its nature requires divergent thinking. For those of you who have formally studied innovation, divergent thinking is often a core of any innovation process. It’s much easier to have a wide variety of ideas if you have folks with diverse backgrounds, experiences, educations, etc. While some of this is reflected in physical differences, much of it are things we cannot see.
- Staying connected with reality: We operate in a quickly evolving world. Imagine the value we could get from having a bunch of different employees who read different websites, move in different social circles, read different books, attend different conferences, are passionate about different things, etc. Think of the value that could be created from the knowledge that abounds if employees were exposed to all sorts of different things going on in the world. We would better connected to reality.
The Guiding Principles aren’t just the values and beliefs that we share at MBM organizations – they are a competitive advantage. Appreciating the value of diversity is one way we can be better than our competition and create more value than we would without a diverse workforce.