Diversity in organizations is not just some liberal’s notion of what is the right thing to do. Scott E. Page, University of Michigan professor of complex systems, political science, and economics, has published "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies." I’ve always believed, based on my own experience (including my own action research) and the research of others, that diverse work teams make better decisions than homogeneous work teams. Page’s book supports this contention. By citing many examples, his own research, and an economic model, he makes a very compelling argument. In an interview in the New York Times, he is quoted as saying:
The problems we face in the world are very complicated. Any one of us can get stuck. If we’re in an organization where everyone thinks in the same way, everyone will get stuck in the same place.
But if we have people with diverse tools, they’ll get stuck in different places. One person can do their best, and then someone else can come in and improve on it. There’s a lot of empirical data to show that diverse cities are more productive, diverse boards of directors make better decisions, the most innovative companies are diverse.
What this means for the workplace is that we need to stop hiring people who think like ourselves and we need to stop using standard criteria for hiring team members. We need to be open to people from different life experiences including ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics, geography, employment, and education. Page’s work lends credence to the notion that diversity, not only has moral and social value, but also has strategic business value.