Imagine a plate of the ultimate nachos. What’s on it? Perhaps perfectly toasted corn chips, a winning combination of cheeses, sour cream, guacamole, your favorite protein, diced onions, and some salsa with just the right amount of heat. Now imagine you go in for a bite…and it’s all cheese. “Not bad,” you think, but you know it could be better. Next bite you manage to get some sour cream on, and it’s an improvement. Third attempt you balance beans, sour cream, cheese, and salsa…this is encouraging. And then it happens. The perfect bite of nachos. Everything and anything you desire perfectly balanced on a single chip. You have found it. This is the diversity nacho–a blend of everything, all working together towards the common goal of attaining nacho nirvana. But nachos are not the only thing that can benefit from diversity.
Walk into any forest and you will see a tremendous amount of diversity. This is nature’s way of preventing a catastrophic loss of all life and building in strength and resilience: vulnerabilities such as parasites, mold, or physical threat such as fire or flood can wipe out a number of species, but likely not all. Ecologists will tell you that the more diverse and complex an ecosystem is the more resistant it is to a wide array of challenges and threats. By contrast, many of the crops we grow on farms represents a monoculture—all the same plant. These crops are constantly at risk: if a single threat appears, the entire crop can be wiped out. As a result pesticides are sprayed to protect the monoculture. Residue from pesticides can cause other problems if they are not removed before consumption.
In the IT world a configuration of systems all running the same OS and same applications (and therefore same vulnerabilities) can present an ideal target for a hacker. A single weakness found on one system can then be leveraged to give access to the entire system. Diversity of systems, OSes, patches, applications, configurations, etc. can sometimes prevent attacks from spreading but the level of diversity of man-made computer systems pales in comparison to the nearly endless forms of diversity found in nature. However, sometimes simply having a different OS is enough to thwart an attack or render a threat inconsequential. As time goes on, diversity and intelligence is coded and passed down to systems in the form of patches and updates: a technological analogy of the evolution seen in nature.
Humans, as a part of nature, can benefit from diversity in many ways. Skilled professionals that have the ability to work across many disciplines, who know how to code, who are proficient in powerful tools and platforms, and are able to keep up with ever changing technologies are more likely to succeed than those that are unable or willing to adapt. There is a word often attributed to tech workers that only understand a single technology and do not adapt to the ever changing landscape: unemployed. In nature, the word is extinct.
As people look for more powerful, scalable, and adaptable technologies, we also look for ways to harness the diversity of teams and team members. Teams that leverage the power of diversity are more adaptable and have a wider pool of knowledge and experience to pull from. Diversity can come in the form of work experience, language (whether spoken, written or coded), culture, gender, skills, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, personal hobbies and interests, and more. A team that includes diverse members such as a member with military background, someone who ran a non-profit, an IT professional from a foreign country, an architect, a former teacher, and a lawyer will often out perform a team in which all members grew up in the same town, received degrees from the same school, and interned at the same companies.
There is a word often attributed to tech workers that only understand A single technology and do not adapt to the ever changing landscape: unemployed.
McKinsey & Company has published reports that show evidence that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to succeed financially than gender imbalanced companies, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to succeed.
IDIC stands for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” A commitment to the power and strength in the concept of IDIC can be shown by a company’s hiring, inclusion and empowerment in an increasing the amount of diversities. It also means seeking to understand what constitutes true diversity. For us this might mean starting with more obvious inequalities such as gender and ethnicity, and using them as opportunities to start working towards diversity. It also means seeking to understand what constitutes true diversity. We aim to go deeper and seek to understand people at an individual level to understand how the nuances of their lives shape them to form their own diversities of thought and perspectives. It means we need to include those that don’t always speak up and get everyone’s voices heard on projects and in meetings. Diversity without inclusion is like having the seeds available but not planting them or letting them take root. Finally, to go a step beyond diversity and inclusion we seek to empower those diversities so their influences are embedded and woven into our organizations at all levels.
Seek to understand people at an individual level to understand how the nuances of their lives shape them to form their own diversities of thought.
By harnessing the power of diversity we seek to strengthen our companies and organizations and create a place where diversity of mind helps us achieve higher levels of profitability and success and create a world where we seek and value differences rather than fear them. It is us all together working together towards a common goal that we achieve our best.