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The paradox of diversity

There are a number of possible framings when we consider the paradoxes in diversity and inclusion. One framing will focus on the benefits and costs created by better decisions from diversity. Another framing is the effects on culture. Whilst there are many more a third example could be, the whole will not change with the joining of the new. However, in truth, these are not paradox’s. They are dilemmas and ethical questions framed as a paradox in the title.

A true paradox of diversity is; “the more diverse we become, the less diverse we are”

A true paradox of diversity is; “the more diverse we become, the less diverse we are” The logic is that we want more diversity, the conclusion should we become more diverse. However, because of the acceptance of diversity, this new becomes normal and we in fact become less diverse. As a total of humanity, we cannot become more diverse, however, many nations and pockets most certainly can.

This is worth unpacking. As we embrace more diversity and inclusion, the new becomes the norm, which means that diversity does not continue to create more and more incremental value, as it is now normal. This new normal, where diversity and inclusion have created a balance means that diversity is a diminishing return as a measure. We appear less diverse on measurement or scores because it has been achieved and it becomes harder to notice diversity. Diversity itself becomes more subtle and we may exclude extremes as they are a small voting percentage. To be clear, we are better off and make better decisions with diversity, but when there, diversity will be challenging to notice.

I focus a lot on decision-making and how a board, trust, or committee can function better and use data to support them in complexity. I believe and know that diversity creates better decisions. For me, diversity is gender, race, neuro-diversity, geography and experience. Note I do not add age to this list as it is the least important.

Highly controversial, but a single race and single-gender board with significant neuro-diversity, comprehensive experience, and different geographies can probably wrestle with complexity better than a diverse gender and race board that all went to a top global university from the same demographic and geography and have similar allegiances and outlooks. Clubs, sects and societies don’t work for better decisions, but such alignment does make your life less controversial. Absolutely one looks good, but dealing with complexity is not about looking good.

Not all boards, trusts, committees have to deal with complexity, and therefore we have to be careful that we don’t create a worse decision-making environment in a drive for diversity, for diversities sake. A charity that represents human suffering will probably fair better in delivering care by being represented by those who suffered or associated with those who suffered than a target for compliance.

The first metric we should assess is what level of complexity do have to deal with and what are the consequences of our decisions. I recognise that this assessment is difficult. This is where Peak Paradox helps as it allows everyone to bring a view without tension or conflict. This should drive our determination for the right diversity. I love the directness of RBG - spot on. Any supreme court in any country is one of the pinnacles of complexity and will be evidence and a reflection of the nations true view about better decision making.

However, in my Peak-Paradox work, it is evident that too much diversity in terms of opinion will not lead to better decisions. This is supported by many studies from storming, forming, norming and performing to profiling for teams. Creating the proper tension and coherence is hard but creates a fantastic decision-making unit in the face of complexity. My work points to; if we create too much varying opinion we will not resolve anything, so we need to be clear and find alignment to a purpose as a team. It is good to question the purpose every 3 to 5 years but not at every meeting. Thorns are best extracted. Who decides and who decides who decides, remains a critical question.

Is there a paradox in diversity? Yes. The takeaway should be that we should insert the word paradox into any trending topics because it will keep you curious and explore complexity, supporting our thinking and decision-making. Sometimes we just find our group will want to accept or reject because they cannot see the paradox.

  • Screen time is Bad - where is the paradox in screen time?

  • Climate change will reduce biodiversity - where is the paradox in climate change?

  • Social media is corrupt - where is the paradox in social media?

  • Green power will solve the carbon footprint - where is the paradox in green technology?

  • Global Pandemics - where are the paradoxes?

  • Global supply chain - where is the paradox for us?

  • Cloud computing is the norm - is there a paradox?

If you cannot see and articulate the paradox, you have been framed and live in a model and complexity will overwhelm you leading to biased decision making.

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