Studies show that diverse groups make better decisions. If you think about it, it is a fairly obvious outcome. Nature thrives on diversity – without it, whole eco-systems are negatively affected.
The story of how reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone Park in America actually changed the course of the river shows how critical one difference can make to a system. Although there were other predators in the park and although the pack was small, their impact was profound.
In organisations, we may try to ensure that we have diversity in race and gender but more often than not, leaders surround themselves with similar-minded people. Looking at the homogenous management teams in so many companies, it is clear that even race and gender diversity is lacking.
Even if we manage to employ a diverse team, what happens when everyone you hire is similar in their thinking? An organisations of visionaries would have great ideas …. that are never implemented. Fill your management team with accountants and you may never get beyond setting targets. A sales-hungry team may consistently win big projects just to lose them the next year through non-delivery.
Simply having some diversity is not enough. As the wolves proved, even one missing viewpoint or outlook can have a negative impact. In the same way, introducing new ideas (through people who are different to the rest of your team) can bring about a major change in the course of your business.
Although many animals benefitted from the reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone, the deer in the park were not so happy. They were now being hunted and had to change their behaviour accordingly. Organisations experience the same discomfort with new people or different ideas. Yet, such pain is essential to the overall health of the system.
The wolves in the park weren’t confined or curtailed in their actions. They did not adjust to their environment the way that we as humans often do. The wolves made the environment their own. Not by challenging the status quo, but by simply being wolves.
Having diverse mind sets, socio-economic backgrounds, professional qualifications and ages in your team is just as important as race and gender. And once you have the diversity in your team, you will need to figure out how to let the wolves be wolves and the eagles be eagles in your own eco-system.