To Succeed, Diversity Needs to Become an Asset Instead of a Liability


Diversity has always been a word fraught with challenges. On the surface having a diverse group of people sounds great, but in the business world especially, mis-managed diversity can lead to serious problems, including poor staff morale and high employee turnover.

A homogeneous collection of people –the same sex, the same age, the same professional background– sounds like the Borg from Star Trek. Sure, the Borg were effective and they didn't wast time squabbling among themselves, but they went about their assigned task with singular purpose and without question. They practiced the ultimate form of groupthink. And in the end, they were always overcome by a group of adversaries who had learned to leverage their diversity to great strategic advantage.

Many businesses and organizations have failed because they developed a homogeneous culture where leadership set high level priorities that were executed without question –even when individuals saw clear warning signs of serious problems

Today there is a much greater recognition of the value of diversity in the workplace. A typical meeting might include men, women, people of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, representatives from all different educational and training backgrounds and from all levels of the corporate hierarchy. Out of this diversity, there is a much better chance that the big ideas will be generated, and problems will be identified and neutralized before they cause harm.

First, you've got to harness that diversity, though that's easier said than done. Different groups have different values, different schedules and different ways of doing things.

If you've ever witnessed a fifty-something project manager who's been sent to get a slipping project "back on the rails" confront a group of twenty-something software developers, inform them they are on the critical path and as such will be required to attend mandatory two hour status meetings at 9am every day, then you likely have some idea of how diversity can quickly go sideways.

When an organization fails to effectively manage diversity it not only puts its strategy execution at risk, it frequently experiences culture clashes that can lead to high employee turnover. Having to constantly seek out, hire and train new staff is expensive, impacts deadlines and deliverables and has a negative effect on employee morale. But that culture clash may be a minor pain compared to opportunity cost of failing to make the most of a diverse workforce. Who knows what great ideas might have come out of such a group, had the culture been in place to encourage them?

The business world is littered with defunct companies that had the opportunity to leverage a diversity asset and instead watched their business implode through a series of culture clashes. The 1998 merger of Chrysler and Daimler is a textbook example of diversity as a liability. The two car companies had the brainpower, staff, factories, model range and customers to dominate the automobile market, but instead suffered a lengthy culture clash that demoralized staff, and in the end nearly fatally wounded Chrysler.

Powernoodle is designed to become the platform that enables an organization to make that leap from culture clash ground zero to unstoppably diverse.

Anonymous participation means everyone can say what's on their mind, regardless of whether it conforms to consensus and without fear of reprisal. Ideas are evaluated based on their merit, not on artificial criteria like the submitter's rank in the corporate hierarchy.

Asynchronous meeting capability means participants can contribute at a time of their own choosing, making the most of their availability and providing the opportunity to focus on the issue at hand instead of just "phoning it in." It doesn't matter if they are on the road and seldom in the office for meetings, if they work in another time zone, or if they tend to work late and show up with a coffee in each hand around lunch time. Powernoodle provides the platform for everyone to contribute, meaningfully.

The net result is that the huge diversity within an organization is harnessed, to great competitive advantage –- no more Groupthink! At the same time, the use of a virtual platform eliminates barriers to participation and encourages active involvement in the decision making process. This helps to ensure buy-in by employees and commitment to doing their part, while also reducing culture clashes.

A company that turns its diversity into an asset can become virtually unstoppable. Like the Borg, only better.