The Diversity Dividend

Friday, March 21, 2014

In 1967 Edward de Bono coined the term Lateral Thinking, a term that evolved into the commonly used and somewhat cliché phrase: “Thinking outside the box.” It is essentially a belief that if we consciously push ourselves to think in new and creative ways and do not limit ourselves to a common methodology or framework, we can obtain greater solution outcomes. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this concept, as cliché as it might be, and believe that if we marry it with diversification the solution outcomes can truly be infinite.

To illustrate my point I need you to do an exercise. Start by making a fist and imagine your fist is a box. When you think inside the box you are limited by the universe that is defined by the physical boundary of you hand; That’s straight forward right?  When you think outside the box, it gets a little more complex. Logically, we think that the entire universe outside that fist is ours for the taking, but ultimately who we are confines us.  With that in mind, draw or imagine a circle around your fist. You might make it close in proximity to your fist or as large as your arm will reach. Either way, as you can see it is still a defined boundary but it is a larger space than your fist. That is our sphere when we think outside the box.

Now imagine that you put two people together in a thinking box. These two people are very similar and because of their sameness, you will still only need the one fist to represent the thinking sphere that these two individuals can encompass. Add a third person who is very different, diversification, and you will need a second fist, in addition to the first, to represent the combined thinking sphere of all three people. All of a sudden the spectrum of thought of this group has truly expanded and with that the range of opportunity for innovation and issue resolution. Having women in the work workforce, and especially women in decision-making positions, is good for business simply because we are not men. 

Ultimately what business cannot benefit from a rich gamut of box breakers? 

"Variety is the spice of life." 
— William Cowper

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