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Diversity and Resilience

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Have you ever had a conflict with someone that you worked through, only to find your relationship was stronger?

Have you ever had a personal challenge that you worked through, only to find that you were stronger?

Research shows this same correlation between diversity and organizational resilience!

2020 has certainly overstated the complex and turbulent world we live in. Pandemics, social, political, technological, environmental, and market volatility. Organizations today need their greatest resource, their human resources now more than ever. Organizations that thrive through this complex, turbulent world will not only need to be agile. They will have to be resilient.

What role does diversity play in the development of organizational resilience? Think of resilience as a three step process.

  1. The anticipation stage - an organizations ability to anticipate a potential threat

  2. The coping stage - the development and implementation of solutions to a specific problem.

  3. The adaptation stage - the ability to actively adapt and develop new capabilities

In the anticipation stage cognitive diversity produces different interpretations of signals, which, when aggregated, lead to more accurate collective predictions. Diverse work units cannot reduce complexity or the number and extent of unforeseen events, but a greater heterogeneity of ideas within people’s heads ‘‘should lead to less collective surprise and therefore better preparation for the consequences’’ (Duchek 2014, p. 275). Innovation research also confirms that diversity is important for creativity in the new-product development process (e.g., Sarin and McDermott 2003; Haon et al. 2009; Hall and Ellis 2010; Ac¸ıkgo¨z et al. 2016; Dayan et al. 2017).

Diversity cannot ensure organizations will anticipate every threat. However, research shows diverse organizations are better able to observe internal and external developments, identify potential risks, and anticipate issues before major crisis develop. When major crisis develop diverse organizations are better able to proactively adapt.

In the coping stage diversity is helpful for resilient coping by constructing a greater variety of interpretations for adverse situations. Researcher call this sensemaking. The more perspectives represented on a team, the more discussion arises about how to cope with the threat. A variety of potential responses in unknown and critical situations uncover better solutions to adapt and respond in a crisis. Diversity requires workgroups to exchange, process, and integrate diverse perspectives to help achieve more creative innovative ideas to cope with unexpected crisis.

In the adaptation stage diverse teams better help restore organizational equilibrium and focus on the development of new capabilities. Thriving, when the only constant is change, requires adjustments and reflection. What organizations learn and evolve to, as a result of the crisis, greatly determines the organizational grit and growth.

Groupthink, a lack of divergent voices, can leave an organization unwilling to act on the experience to create lasting change. Successful adaptation requires cognition and behavior. Diversity enhances the organization’s ability to (1) reflect on and (2) learn from critical events.

Benefiting from the the innovation, organizational resilience and profitability diversity offers requires organizations to manage diversity. One cannot under-estimate the important role of team communication and information-processing characteristics for positive diversity effects. The importance of cultures that are open-minding. Where belonging is a priority and leading inclusively a leadership competency.

At Learning Path, LLC we are your Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Anti-Racism dream team. Everything from consulting to curriculum, we help you create cultures of belonging.

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