Diversity please for business sake.

We’ve long had a little motto at MediaCom as far as finding new people to work here is concerned which runs “I don’t like you – you’re hired”. It is based on the thinking of Bob Sutton (http://www.bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/08/twelve_weird_id.html). His philosophies include the idea that you need to hire people who make you feel uncomfortable, or even people you actively dislike, because it makes your organisation better and stronger.
One of the seminars at Google’s glorious Zeitgeist conference this week reminded me of this when Ben Verwaayen (CEO of Alcatel-Lucent) clashed on a panel with Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness) and Christian Stadil (owner of hummel). As you know usually panellists find themselves in violent agreement about the topics discussed. Not this lot (as you can see at (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRCeamgaS1M). Both Hsieh and Stadil were in agreement that you needed to employ like-minded staff. Verwaayen fought hard for diversity instead. Condemning most organisations as “Permission seeking societies where the nod of the boss is more rewarding than a satisfied customer”, he suggested that you needed to find people who were not like you and who could bring a diverse set of experiences and even values to the mix, and who would fight for what they believed was right, even if their boss didn’t approve.

My view is that truly great organisations do tolerate, and even welcome a rich mix of personalities and indeed diverse types of people. When your team disagree it stress tests ideas more and only the really good ideas get through.

It was noticeable this year, and indeed remarked upon by some delegates that there were few women at Google Zeitgeist, either speaking or as attendees. This isn’t a criticism of Google, I am sure it is a function of the business world that they’re operating in. (Our WPP media contingent stood out – Jane, Claude, Ita and Lindsay were all there). It has been remarked upon by commentators in the press of course that the members of our new government are mostly men and look remarkably similar too, and until today (May 20) the same could have been said of the candidates for Labour leader.

Thank goodness for Diane Abbott if only from a diversity point of view.

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