Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Diversity: are we looking deep enough?

I had the pleasure of spending a few days with members of the Association for Management Innovation when they met here in Amsterdam late last week (explains my absence from the blog!). This is group of people spanning nearly every industry and consultancy-type you can think of, and have absolutely nothing in common except that they are in charge of innovation and/or change in their organizations. (Sidebar: They also knew nothing of sustainability or corporate responsibility but decided that this would be the theme of their August meeting so they invited me to come along.)

In one of the sessions a member of the group presented her thoughts around diversity in organizations. She argued that although there will always be room to improve, most companies DO have solid diversity policies and procedures in place - ensuring a good blend of people from different genders, age groups, races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientation, languages, and other measures. In this globalized world most companies see diversity as a competitive advantage.

Although some companies performance on diversity may fall short of the mark, the presenter identified what could be a potentially bigger problem when it comes to diversity: character.

She claimed that companies consciencely or sub-consciencely carved out a "keyhole" in terms of the type of person that they would like to promote and succeed and lead the organization. This results in a very homogenous top tier of executives - typically a set of clones of the CEO. She said it takes great courage for a CEO (and the organization at large) to break out of this tendency and hire or promote people of very different character. She argued that although the day to day interactions may be more difficult due to the natural tensions that would exist due to the diveristy of perspectives, in the long run players would build up trust and respect for one another, and the organization as a whole would be strengthened by this diversity of character.

Although the GRI indicators do cover diversity in its various forms, there isnt one to measure the range of character diversity!

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