Diversity matters. Here’s why.
“Our path may be different, but our purpose of journey is the same.”
– Debasish Mridha
As the CEO of a startup, I spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of company we want to be, and the role I can play to help us get there.
I want to make sure that we’re hiring the right people and helping them get the best out of themselves. I want us to keep improving as a group, challenge each other with new ideas and push the boundaries. I want us to have a culture we’re all proud of.
To achieve this, we follow two guiding principles, which I believe in very strongly. I have a high degree of conviction that if we continue down this path, we will give ourselves the best chance of succeeding.
I want everyone in our company to have two things in common. The should buy into our mission, and they should share the same values.
If everyone buys into the same mission, we’ll all work towards a common goal. That’s critical to any company’s success, yet so rarely achieved.
Values are important because they influence how people conduct themselves. There is no point working towards the same goal if we can’t work together, productively, collaboratively and respectfully. Short term success will quickly be followed by longer-term failure.
We need uniformity of mission and values. However, they are the only two things we should have in common.
In everything else, there should be tension and discomfort.
If we are different from each other, we are more likely to see things differently, have different opinions and ideas and offer different solutions. We will keep challenging each other and, by doing so, we will raise the bar. That, in a nutshell, is why diverse companies perform better.
At its core, diversity is about thinking differently. The best way to ensure people will think differently from each other is to bring together people who have lived their lives differently and had fundamentally different experiences. People from different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and genders are much more likely to see things differently. When they come together, there is tension. People feel uncomfortable because they find it easier to deal with someone who is the same.
But from that discomfort comes the magic. It’s not diversity for the sake of diversity. It’s diversity for the sake of intellectual and cultural growth.
Reconciling Uniformity and Diversity
Having clarity over the ways in which we should be uniform, and the ways we should be diverse makes hiring a lot easier. Besides skills, we know exactly what to look for. Importantly, we know who to look for. We want people who buy into our mission and share our values but are generally different from us in many other ways.
I can’t categorically say that this is the right formula in every situation, but I strongly believe that it is the right formula for us. It’s challenging to pursue a hiring strategy that encourages discomfort. It’s almost counter-intuitive. But I am driven by the belief that it will help us be better and take steps towards becoming a company we can all be really proud of.