Thrive through diversity (1/4)

By: Maria van der Schoot

No matter where you look or in which system you engage, where you incorporate diversity, a system will thrive.

Embracing operational diversity in organizations
Transitioning to agile operating models for business resilience
Increasing flexibility in organizational contracting and financial systems
Maintaining stability in turbulent business environments
Integrating sustainability into core business operations

Embracing diversity on different levels within the organization will contribute to a resilient and sustainable organization. This is not to say, that ‘diversity’ is the only thing required to be a sustainable organization. Diversity is solely a value structure, a piece of a bigger picture that adds value and allows an organization to become more resilient and move towards sustainable practices.

To ensure a sustainable organizational system, the core of an organization needs to embrace diversity on multiple levels. Having the ability to rely on the solid foundation of an organization when the outer environment gets turbulent is an important aspect to adapt to the already rapidly changing environment. A solid foundation requires the operational model and business to stay resilient when outside forces challenge the status quo. To give you an obvious, but clear example: when COVID hit, lots of organizations needed to organize themselves differently. People suddenly needed to work from home, supply chains needed a different infrastructure, offline services needed to transition to online offerings and some even needed to adjust their entire model; clubs started to offer online training programs and restaurants focussed on delivery and takeaway. Organizations that had a solid foundation built, were more resilient to this sudden change than others. In this context, a solid foundation is referring to the ability to stay stable, resilient, and relevant within organizations when change is constantly challenging the status quo. These are characteristics of an organization that are essential if they are looking to make a positive (environmental) impact.

The solid foundation will only hold when there is enough room for flexibility within the boundaries of the foundation. Holding on to black-and-white concepts that assume there is a wrong and a right is too blunt. For example, thinking you need an ‘x’ number of people to derive from the ‘norm’ to make a diverse team, instead of looking at each situation independently, knowing that it is about adaptability, context and circumstances. The realm of sustainability is too complex to simplify the strategies and operations into black-and-white thinking.

Think about it as a bungee cord versus a wooden stick. The bungee cord can jump up and down and can handle a lot more pressure than the wooden stick. The wooden stick will break much easier and has no opportunity to recover after its big shock. Bringing diversity within your organization convulsively will ultimately break the resilience if it was integrated with black-and-white thinking. This will happen when an organization settles for minimum amounts of diversity within a team or portfolio, for example, only embracing one aspect of diversity. Or, on the other hand, holding too strongly onto the idea of diversifying that it becomes the goal by itself. Remember, ‘embracing diversity’ is solely a value structure that supports an organization in building a solid foundation.

For the purpose of creating a solid foundation that support an organization to become more sustainable, I have taken three domains that together cover the surface in which ‘diversity’ can be integrated:

  1. Workforce diversity
  2. Product & portfolio diversity
  3. Operational diversity

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll release in a series of three blogs an in-depth view on each of the domains. Here I’ll give you easy tips to increase the diversity on each level and let you know what the direct benefits are. So, stay tuned!

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