Why You Should Diversify How You Think About Diversity

You want to build a strong team. You want a diverse team. Great, but what does that mean?
If you’re like most people, the first categories that come to mind are gender and race (as fuzzy as those terms might be). But are you missing a larger opportunity? Should you diversify how you think about diversity?
Start with this question: Why do you want diversity on your team? Meaning, what is your objective? Is it to have to range of perspectives? Experiences? Abilities? Any of those might be valid reasons. Now, the harder question: How should you best evaluate if people possess those perspectives, experiences or abilities? The easy way is to stereotype them by gender or race. Yet stereotypes make assumptions that may or may not be true. The more reliable way to evaluate what you’re looking for is through methods such as behavior-based interviewing, assessment profiles, job history analysis, and critical life event analysis.
Don’t get me wrong. A major reason for increasing diversity is because of systemic biases against certain categories of people that have nothing to do with their performance or potential. Without a doubt, we want to overcome and avoid those systemic biases. And, this alone may not fulfill your objective in building a diverse team.
Another wrinkle: you don’t want your team to be diverse in all areas. For some things you want consistency, not diversity. Things such as values. Presumably, you want everyone on your team to share common values such as doing a good job and being a supportive team member. And traits. You might want every member of your team to possess certain traits such as taking initiative.
So, yes, build a diverse team. Just be clear on why you want diversity, what you mean by diversity, and how best to evaluate diversity.
But that’s just my view. I’m open to diverse opinions!
Make it happen.
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