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Diversity - how important is it to your bottom line?

I was watching Master Chef the other night and the contestants had to choose a signature ingredient to showcase in a savoury and a dessert dish. One girl chose chilli, and I was curious what she would do for her dessert dish. She won because she cooked two delicious meals that showcased chilli and with a mixture of other ingredients to develop innovative dishes that the judges loved.

Diversity is like cooking. If we only use flour and water to make a cake we end up with tasteless dough that is unimaginative and uncreative. Adding in sugar, salt, raising agents, spices, eggs and other ingredients help us to create a something delicious.

The research and findings that have been emerging over the last decade, to identify what makes organisations successful and more profitable than their counterparts, indicates that diversity is definitely key and leads to higher collective intelligence.

A study by Professors Anita Woolley and Thomas W. Malone found that ‘there is little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises’. That is, teams are more than just a collection of the best talent and they become more intelligent when women are added.

A study by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) took a group of all men and added one woman. As they did the collective IQ of the group went up. They added another woman and it went up again, added another woman and it went up again. It kept going up until the homogeny balance tipped back the other way and the diversity disappeared.

This isn’t because the women are smarter, but because of the different ways of thinking coming together and making the collective group smarter. It allows us to solve problems in a different way and makes us more creative.

Different skills sets and different talents make us smarter.

Think about your team and your organisation. Are you interested in becoming more diverse and collectively smarter? If so, it’s important to understand why:

  • Understand your purpose, and how diversity will help you with this
  • Then make the decision that diversity is a core value. If it is, put diversity as a top priority in your strategic agenda and filter the message down to all senior managers and below
  • Create an action plan to move toward a more diverse workplace

It’s smart if you add women to the mix.


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