Most of us have been exposed over the years to discussions in the media around the issue of diversity. The concept is applied to most of the structures of our society — schools, employers, governmental bodies, and so on. For businesses, the interest in diversity stems largely from legal mandates such as the federal Civil Rights Act. But there is another way to look at the issue.
The common axiom “two heads are better than one” speaks to the notion that one person, thinking alone, will likely reach a conclusion that is lacking. If you introduce another person into the thought process, the reasoning goes, they will help prompt and facilitate a broader discussion, bringing in different aspects of the issue, and ideally, a more accurate or useful conclusion will be reached.
This is not, however, a panacea to good decision-making because there are other human tendencies that can – and often do – get in the way. One such tendency that has been identified by organizational psychologists is “group think.” This occurs when two or more like-minded individuals consider an issue but rather than pushing the discussion deeper, simply agree with one another, failing to recognize competing theories.
Diversity in Decision Making
The best way to overcome weak decision-making is to bring a diverse group of people together to analyze and discuss issues and solutions. It is well known that women often view things differently than men. And it is equally well known that members of minority population groups such as African-Americans, Latinos, and Native-Americans have different views than their Caucasian counterparts.
In business, companies do not market or sell their products or services only to the demographic group that matches the employees of the company. Rather, businesses routinely search for ways to broaden their customer base. Therefore, if a company has a homogenous employee base of, say, middle-aged white men, and wants to market and deliver products to a multicultural millennial customer base, that is going to be a challenge.
Diversity across generations, gender, race, and ethnicity within the employee population is needed to clearly see and constructively meet the challenges of product development, marketing, and delivery.
Businesses which understand and embrace this logic of diversity will be more likely to succeed than those which merely implement the legal mandate of diversity.