How To Solve the Biggest Problem with Diversity

There was an item on the local news the other night that I found fascinating. A number of students at the university campus were holding a rally advocating for a Diversity Center as a gathering place that would acknowledge the diversity of the campus and provide a place and programs that would focus on that aspect of their identity.  Given the cash-strapped condition of higher education, my immediate thought was “re-inaugurate the Student Union as the Student Diversity Center and you’re done!”

As I let this information further settle, I began to wonder about the surface focus that our culture has taken in the intervening years between the concepts of Student Union and Student Diversity, what that says about our culture, and the dangers and opportunities this presents, both for our culture, and then, turning the thought on its side, for business.  Yeah, I have an exciting thought life….

The challenge is to approach these areas with “Both/And” thinking (here’s a good post by Thomas Ambler that describes this in a business context).  Diversity brings a wide and deep richness to innovation, teams, culture and creativity. Without diversity, sameness rules…to one way of thinking. Union brings strength, vision, singular purpose and a commonality or community that can bring dreams to fruition. We need both.

Focusing on just one or the other has its dangers. Complete union can crush any “other” thinking (“groupthink”), devalue (or even attack…) differences than actually enhance, and enshrine stagnation. Utter diversity has no real “direction”, scatters strength, and can set up innumerable islands of “mine” that may feel satisfying to the single inhabitant, but little else. Like I said, we need both.

I feel that acknowledging our need for each other as humans helps move us to an initial union of a sort. Recognizing the unique strengths and weaknesses we each bring to a relationship or group emphasizes the diversity. This is much harder work than categorizing groups (and ideologies…) with stereotypes. Cognitively, it’s much easier to paint a type onto someone than it is to invest social effort. But if we want to really make this work, we have to do the work.

So what does this construct look like when viewed through a business prism? Not much different, actually. Numerous studies have shown the value of ensuring your team has a
heterogeneous make-up (see a short list of articles at the end of this post). There are a number values to look at, too. So many times, when we hear the word “diversity” we think race or gender. However, you might consider:

  • Age
  • Personality Type
  • Cultural origin
  • Regional or Geographic origin
  • Educational focus (that is, arts, sciences, business, etc.)
  • Work and professional history
  • External focus or activities (what does this person do outside of the office?)
Next, think on how you segment and perceive of your customers and audience. How do you reach out them? Different people look for information and learn in different ways. This isn’t to say you have to do everything to reach everyone. You do need to be more intentional and thoughtful when doing this kind of research, though. Assumptions made in this area will have a direct impact on your business, so the better and more true view you have of these people, the more likely you are to actually reach them and succeed in your efforts.

Hold both Diversity and Union in your view and you will have a clearer idea of what Actual Humans are. You can be more authentic.

Here’s a short list of Diversity studies for business:

Blogging – Speak If You Have Something to Say

A question I received this week was, “How often should a business post to their blog?” This is a very common question and usually driven by a small business owner’s fear of having to spend a lot of time creating the post and the frequency of posting for the effectiveness of the effort. In new bloggers’ nightmares, it takes hours to write a 400 word post and she has to do this every day. Neither of those is true.

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Get the Internet to Work for Your Company

A question I received this week was, “What is the single most important thing to do so the Internet works best for your company?”

Ask this of 5 consultants and you will likely get about 43 different answers.  That said, I put forth my answer with the caveat that the Internet is so insanely dynamic that things can change rapidly and pretty radically.  OK, then….

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The Challenge of “Always On”

A question I received this week was, “How do you balance the 24/7 of social media with an 8-to-5 work day?”

“Always on”, 24-by-7 is kind of scary. I live an area that, this winter, has lost power about 7 or 8 times in the past 2 months, so “always on” is kind of relative, but I digress…

The availability of the Internet is terrific when you need to do that search, find that restaurant, message your friend, research that project or notify the world of some truly significant event. However, if you’re a business owner, it can be intimidating. Since the Internet is always there, you may feel you need to be, too.

Well, maybe not….

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Open the Box – A Fish?!

Awhile back I was working through a visualization exercise mentioned in Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work”. My first post regarding this can be found here and if you search my blog you’ll a number of other visualizations that I’ve found useful using this. Let me summarize what this entails:

  • Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it.
  • What’s inside?
  • It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia.
  • But here’s the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it.

Over time I’ve found a golden table, a pressure washer, wood floors and a few others.

I hadn’t exercised my imagination in this way for a while, so I decided to give it a go and opened the box afresh. Today I found……a fish.
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Want to Be Heard? Listen…and Hear…

Detail

Detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the little plastic animals, usually dogs, that people used to place in the back windows of their cars?  These plastic pooches would nod their heads as the car moved, giving the impression that they were looking around. Sadly, I see this plastic behavior sometimes taking place in meetings I attend. Someone is presenting an idea, a report, training or just carrying on conversation, and some of the people around are making appropriate nods and noises, but their follow-up conversation and engagement belies their inattentiveness.  Even if they ARE listening, they don’t hear what is being said.
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TIPS: 3 Views of Content

The online world is utterly obsessed with content. This takes a number of forms, from articles and blogs to photos, graphics of any kind, videos, podcasts, and any re-mix thereof. It is an attention economy and if you can get your customers and visitors to focus on JUST YOU for a bit, you have achieved something pretty impressive.

However, this is only getting harder to do well. If you have the goal of creating or highlighting something of real value and relevance to your audience (as opposed to distraction or “click-bait”…) you have to be thoughtful, intentional and resourceful while balancing the other needs of your business and life. While the standing approach can still be called “Fail Fast” or “Do It Wrong Quickly“, you still need to cultivate an acute awareness of the real value of what you publish to your audience. There are numerous articles, sites, books and courses about content marketing available. Still, navigating it all as a solopreneur or small business owner can seem like panning for gold, and you just don’t feel like you’ve got the time or resources. You’ve got a business to create and run.

I’ll keep this to the point to save you time: here are three views of content that can help you use the resources you have more effectively. Frame your efforts with these in mind and you will find you come closer to “hitting the mark.”

  • Make it interesting – There’s the stuff you’re interested in and there’s the stuff your audience is interested in. Drive laser focus on the latter, include the former and do your best to leave ‘overt selling’ out of it. Don’t be a pimp. Remember, only roughly 1 out of every 20 pieces published should be considered selling.
  • Make it relevant and usefulJay Baer says to publish stuff your audience would be willing to pay for. The greater the utility and relevance of what you publish, the more valuable you are to your audience, which will bring them back to you frequently….and when you DO sell, they will listen.
  • Be truly “value add – Don’t just shove articles and links onto your stream and let your audience figure it out. Comment….give them a clue or a question or a contrarian point of view. Provide a reason to care and click through.

Do you have any views of content you feel are foundational? Share in the comments and make your case.