How much is TOO much diversity?


Good stuff as always in your last post.  I can’t argue that organizations have a long way to go in defining and then identifying talent.  That reality goes a long way towards keeping me gainfully employed today.  Talent is a messy and difficult topic if you really roll up your sleeves and dig into it because it requires deep understanding of a lot of things that are difficult to pin down (like culture and leadership, personality and behavior).

I was particularly struck by this idea in your post:

Conflict is the genesis of change and diversity is the genesis of conflict.

You have convinced me through our work together that diversity is the key ingredient within innovation and change.  It is at the intersections of difference that new ideas and perspectives are born.  This can’t be faked or artificially manufactured inside the comfort of sameness.

However, there are a couple of thoughts that keep lingering with me in regards to role diversity and conflict play within the context of identifying talent.  First, conflict isn’t always positive.  Conflict in and of itself isn’t negative or positive.  It’s what you do with it that matters.  Too much conflict can be crippling to a team or organization in the absence of the skill or ability to work with it appropriately.

My second thought is that while change is critical for organizations, change for change sake isn’t healthy or wise.  Often times, the ability to respond and adapt to change can be just as important to organizations as their ability to drive or create change.  Again, conflict arising from difference can help, but it could also hinder an organization’s abilities in this regard.  You need to strike a balance.

Finally, since we are all unique, one-of-a-kind individual human beings, it should be the case that there is already a ton of diversity within an organization.  Every organization is full of people who look different, talk different, think different and act different from one another, at least at some level.  This leads me to the conclusion that our primary challenge isn’t necessarily in becoming more diverse, but rather to unleash the diversity we already have.  This makes the notion of considering an applicants “diverseness” even more perplexing from a talent perspective.

So, I’m stuck with these questions in my mind as it relates to the role of diversity in the selection of talent and the creation of organizations and teams.

  1. If we believe that high performing organizations and teams must be diverse, how much diversity is the right amount?
  2. If there’s a right amount, what kind of diversity is the most important within that balance?
  3. Assuming that there is an answer to these two questions, how do we know when we’ve achieved the right balance?

When I think about you and I as the Talent Anarchy team and consider what has made us really work well together over the years, I come first to all of our commonalities.  It was all of the ways in which we were the same (and frankly there is a much longer list than I’m comfortable with) that drew us together initially.  Our differences and the diversity of our perspectives work well because it’s in a container of commonalities, common purpose, and shared experience.

This seems somewhat counter-intuitive, but it almost seems to suggest that high performing teams need a substantial foundation of commonality to allow their diversity to flourish.  This brings me back to my questions above.  What is the right amount and type of diversity to create the perfect team?

I don’t know the answer.  I’m hoping that you do.  What I do know for sure is that it’s complicated and that these are the right kinds of questions to be struggling with.



  1. Hi

    Certainly the trick is to get the balance between getting ‘enough’ diversity for there to be creativity / minimal duplication etc within team and ensuring there is enough commonality for people to ‘get on’ / common understanding of goals etc to be able to operate with shared purpose.

    Easy to say. Not easy to achieve and there likely is no simple formulaic solution. It is a balance that probably shifts even within the same team it various times within its existance.

    Twitter: davidcadogan

  2. Great post Jason. Perhaps at the end of the day the goal isn’t to find balance at all, but rather to keep “the ship on course” adjusting every now and then when things have gone a bit too far? We’ll be wrestling with these same questions as our D & I efforts pick up steam.

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