No one can predict the future, but taking a good look at your company’s diversity and partnerships can give you some insight into your future success.
When you take steps to ensure maximum diversity on every team, you’ll ratchet up your decision quality, your likelihood of success, and your capacity to respond to the challenges of a changing future. Similarly, seeking out partners that can provide new skill sets you need and complement the skills you already have is another way to fill gaps.
Nick Davis is the author of Future Ready and the former VP of Enterprise Solutions at Singularity University—the place where global leaders and organizations go to learn what the future will look like. I sat down with him to learn how today’s leaders can ensure they are ready to face exponential change.
Diversity Is A Competitive Advantage
The evidence supporting diversity in the workplace is undeniable. As detailed in this 2017 Forbes article, there are several huge benefits to a diverse workforce:
- Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
- Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with half the meetings.
- Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
In a rapidly changing environment, organizations that embrace diversity give themselves a competitive advantage. To be clear, we’re talking about diversity across the board: experiences, backgrounds, skill sets, global perspectives, gender, age, and culture.
Age is an often overlooked piece of corporate diversity. As Davis shares in the book, he was at a board meeting recently where one of the members said, “We’re diverse in almost every metric except for age.” Davis saw he was right: nearly all of the board members were over sixty.
With some younger perspectives in the room to challenge established ways of thinking, the board could’ve been making even better decisions. The more perspectives you hear, the more possible visions of the future you see, and the more information you have at your disposal.
Diversity will look different for every organization, but it must be a priority for decision-makers at every level. If executives crafting the top-line strategy don’t include diverse perspectives, Davis says the entire organization will likely be tainted by their bias. It is mission-critical to bring diversity to the table as we craft the governing strategies that empower decision-makers.
Finding The Right Partners
External partnerships can bring fresh expertise and diverse perspectives into your organization. Given our viewpoints and experiences, we all carry with us valuable insight—and blind spots. Partners can help us overcome internal biases and enable different ways of thinking.
Davis isn’t saying organizations should forge partnerships for their own sake, though. That kind of move does nothing to advance your strategy or prepare your business for the future.
Thoughtful collaboration is much more than a box to check. It’s a powerful tool to bring your organization’s vision and innovation into being. Here are some of the criteria Davis recommends for organizations to use when selecting partners:
Diverse perspectives: If you go to McKinsey for data, and your five competitors are consulting McKinsey for the same reason, you’re going to get the same insights.
Reputation and skillset of partner: Hiring a big firm or a big brand doesn’t guarantee a certain level of output, so be thoughtful about your goals and requirements for a partnership.
Co-opetition: Rather than going head-to-head with a competing product, you could collaborate with partners from adjacent markets, which would likely uncover some interesting insights.
Aligned goals: In every partnership, it’s important to be crystal clear on each other’s goals, roles, and objectives so the partnership isn’t sunk before it ever begins.
Getting Future Ready Is Not About Checking A Box
With diversity and partnerships, Davis is very clear: these aren’t boxes to be checked. Diversity can’t just be a side project or a nice word that’s strategically placed in job postings.
Future ready organizations have diverse cultures. It’s not just about who gets hired. Diversity is present in every meeting and reflected in every decision. After all, it does no good to build a diverse team with unique perspectives if you have a culture where people are afraid to speak up or challenge the status quo. Diversity has to run deep, and it starts at the top.
With partnerships, don’t enter into one because it seems like a good idea. It needs to make sense for your business. Davis saw this recently, when a member of an innovation council said he’d bought a membership to Plug and Play, a startup incubator in Silicon Valley.
When pressed to explain the reason for that action, the member replied, “That’s what we were told was the right thing to do, so we just did it.” The partnership wasn’t aligned with the group’s strategy. There was no plan to leverage the data and startups from Plug and Play. They were just checking a box of collaboration. It’s imperative that you avoid falling into this trap.
Diversity and the right partnerships can level up your decision-making, illuminate blind spots, and bring skills and perspectives to the table that weren’t there before. In other words: these are two important steps to creating a future ready organization. With the right approach and buy-in from leadership, you’ll ensure you’re making actual progress, not just checking a box.