Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Loudest Duck - diversity

I recently read The Loudest Duck - Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work by Laura Liswood.

It's interesting when I moved to New York, I joined an Angel Investment group called Golden Seeds (I was very impressed with their due diligence process). One of their mandates is to only invest in women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. To some extent this provides me with a little bit more portfolio diversity since most of my investments are in male-owned and operated businesses (I like to think not by design, simply by seeing businesses as genderless and making business decisions based on what I thought were the right businesses).

As the title suggests, the book is about diversity. The obvious case is that discrimination still exists and this discrimination actually hurts companies.

The book did touch on the damage the efforts of trying to legislate things has because simply trying to fill numbers ignores the real skills and needs of a company.

One point the book made which I thought was excellent is leaders often tend to surround themselves with people who look like themselves.

I've noted in business that true maturity is being able to accept people who don't have the same characteristics and being willing to value them similarly to ourselves. The biggest example I saw in business is the accounts receivable people all think the sales people don't care about selling to customers who won't pay their bills on time and the sales people think the credit department is simply making their life miserable and adding to their challenge in selling. Truly mature people realize there is great value in a sales person and an accountant.

In my view, the ideal team should be made up of people which have the right diversity of views, background, experience and the appropriate mix of skills, regardless of their race, gender, religion, etc.

So as the book suggests, the ideal is to be able to look through any of these natural biases.

The book concludes with: "It is by no means easy to create a successful Noah's ark of diversity, yet once accomplished - and with much sustained consciousness - the rewards are enormous."

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