Why Operational Diversity is a Critical Part of a Fulfilling Workplace

diversity hiring leadership talent strategy team development Oct 17, 2019
A diverse group of professionals who represent different methods of problem solving

Diversity in the workplace is a popular topic... it should be. Society benefits when people of all races, religions, genders, ages, educational backgrounds, and capabilities are represented in the workforce.


Yet, for so much emphasis on the topic, the business world is still missing one crucial element of diversity in the workplace. That is, operational diversity.

I worked with a large, reputable firm a few years back. The leadership team was the picture of diversity (so you would think). The team members represented various ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, job titles, and so on. Yet the team got absolutely nothing done. They were notorious for it. They all insisted on gathering more and more facts before making a decision. Everyone put effort into mitigating risk by not taking chances or changing the status quo. Truly, nothing got done. The research phase never ended and anything new was deemed too risky. The highly paid team, in charge of leading the world-wide organization, operated in a perpetual standstill.


This team sorely lacked diversity in problem-solving methods.

Too much of a good thing is, in fact, a bad thing. There were too many researchers and not enough explainers or simplifiers. There were too many stabilizers and not enough modifiers or innovators.


A team with only one way of doing things is doomed for inaction.

Are your teams stuck in a rut? If so, you may also be suffering from a lack of diversity in operational methods.


Honestly ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does everyone agree most of the time
2. Do managers hire people who “do things exactly the way I do?”
3. Are we struggling to make progress on goals?
4. Do people occasionally operate outside of their comfort zones?
5. Are people rewarded for taking a different approach?
6. Is there freedom in how tasks are completed?
7. Is there a devil’s advocate?
If you answered “yes” to questions 1-3 and “no” to 4-7, then you likely have a diversity problem. Your team has an imbalanced approach to problem-solving and is crippling your organization. It may not be obvious right now, but the cumulative impact of a “cloned” team is stagnation.


How do we seek out operational diversity in the workplace?

It starts in the hiring process. Train staff to be aware of the natural bias to hire those who “work like I do.” Instruct them to instead seek out candidates who offer a complementary approach.
Also, use objective measures. There is only one way to assess a person’s instinctual problem-solving method, and that is the Kolbe A™ Index. This tool is not to be confused with intelligence or personality assessments, which measure completely different aspects of the mind. Identifying the striving instincts of your team members using the Kolbe A™ Index gives the necessary insight to create synergy in your organization.
Lastly, foster a culture that encourages operational diversity. Praise those who act as a devil’s advocate. Train your team to challenge traditional methods. And look for opportunities to reach the same result from a different angle.


Here's the key takeaway: diversity in the workplace is more than meets the eye.

Diversity in the workplace is often spoken about in a specific way, which rarely considers diversity of problem-solving approaches. Remember that operational diversity in your organization is just as important as demographic diversity. In fact, you cannot maintain a competitive organization without it.
Are you not sure where to start in achieving operational diversity in the workplace? We are happy to help. We are experts in coordinating synergistic, high-performing teams.

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