The culture wars are offically in full swing. From U.S. politics to #MeToo to the Google memo, our identities, belief systems and affiliations are being used to pull us apart—and lump us together—in increasingly public ways. At the same time, it’s clear that diversity creates a substantial competitive advantage for brands. How can modern marketing leaders navigate this shifting, complex landscape? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.
- Let’s start by defining “diversity”. Our identities come from three places: origin, growth and aspiration. Supporting identities of origin (racial, social and religious) is a clear baseline. But mature organizations will go further—deepening diversity and improving collaboration by supporting all three.
- Beyond diversity, inclusion is also important. Think of it this way—diversity without inclusion is like a rocket without a launchpad: it may look impressive but you won’t get you very far.
- Culture is also important. To build a truly diverse workplace that’s inclined towards innovation, you need a culture that supports divergent points of view. A great starting point: ensure you have a framework for managing conflict (which includes preventing it, resolving it and living with it).
- Speaking of conflict, decades of research shows that the most impactful new ideas arise in circumstances where there is some degree of positive tension and friction. But be careful—don’t let your focus on intellectual differences water down the importance of building an identity-diverse workplace.
- While we’re on the subject of pitfalls: take special care not to reduce diversity to a mere buzzword. Diversity initiatives will falter or fail completely if there isn’t clarity around why it is important, how it changes the context of doing business, and what it means to the outputs being produced.
- If all of this feels daunting, remember: there’s a major payoff at the end. Embedding difference as an operating principle isn’t just the right thing to do, it results in better work.
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