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At the IDB, we believe that together we can go farther. Our partnership network is making positive differences in Latin America and the Caribbean every day, and this blog is our channel for telling that story. Stay tuned for literature on partnership perspectives, stories from the field, changing trends, outlooks for development and the region, information on ways and opportunities to partner, and more. Thanks for stopping by.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By - Oct 30 2014

monkeyWe hear the word “diversity” often, in HR pledges to promoting diverse workplaces, in angry media responses to discriminatory injustice. But is there more to inclusiveness than just the honorable principle behind it? Studies indicate that there is. Beyond a mandatory institutional goal, diversity is a proven strength that is taking organizations to another level. Evidence shows that organizations whose employees have similar backgrounds, education and worldviews tend to think similarly and approach problems, work, and the world in similar ways.. Though this may translate into easy-to-navigate social dynamics, it also translates into a limitation and lack of creativity that we can no longer afford. Therefore it is time for us to get along with people who are different from us. With the help of Dr. Scott Page from valued IDB partner the University of Michigan, today I will share with you three reasons why:

1.)    Multifaceted professionals engender creativity and innovation. Talent exists in all people and organizations; it doesn’t know gender, age, race, or physical abilities. But embracing a  workforce with diversity in experience will allow us to maximize everyone’s potential. Dr. Page says that the value of the team isn’t the sum of the abilities of individuals, but rather what tools they each bring to the table. Diverse groups will naturally have accumulated diverse toolsets, making the team more competitive overall by  bringing differing abilities to the mix. We need to create diverse workplace environments that encourage learning from others and using the advantages these diverse perspectives bring to our organizations. We do not need multiple copies of people who think the same way we do.

2.)    Innovation cannot be generated in complete isolation. What better to make this point than to quote Mr. Henry Ford: “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled into a car the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work… Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable…”  Mr. Ford, it seems, gladly acknowledges that his groundbreaking assembly line was made possible by standing on the shoulders of giants. It is necessary not only to work in diversity, but to acknowledge the value in the contributions of others. There is not just strength in numbers, but innovation, too.

3.)    Crowds are smart. Diverse crowds are smarter. And that is why they happen to be right most of the time, according to Dr. Page. But he doesn’t say this out of pure assumption. He has mathematically proved it through his Diversity Prediction Theorem. And though we may not have a formula to guide our partnership outreach, experience has shown us that he is, in fact, correct. As partnership officers at the IDB, we recognize that two heads will always be better than one. But as partnership officers that ally with organizations of all kinds and from all places, we also recognize that two diverse heads will always be better than two like-minded ones. This encourages us to seek partnerships of all shapes and sizes to  form a network that generates creativity, and shares resources, risks, and responsibilities. Thanks to diversity, partnerships have only become stronger and richer.

diversity prediction theorem

In development, it is crucial to recognize the importance of good diversity management (policies and practices) as an effective mechanism for maximizing the benefits of a diverse workforce. Good management acknowledges that there are different approaches to one problem, and understands that decision making is a complex, non-linear process. It allows spaces for creativity, incentivizes innovation, and most importantly sees and taps into the value of diversity.

A diverse workforce is an organization’s best asset. Let’s embrace and celebrate diversity, and let’s all just get along.

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