When we say or hear the phrase “it takes all sorts”, it usually implies a light-hearted if slightly grudging, and generally patronising, judgement on someone or some people whom we see as different from ourselves. It is a way of distancing ourselves without being overtly mean; an attempt at making ourselves sound generous-hearted, tolerant and inclusive, whilst actually pointing out that we regard someone as an outsider.
Actually, however, we know that in the business environment we do need to understand that it really does ‘take all sorts’ for us to be as good as we can be. Or do we? What does this mean? Profit? Innovation? Market-share? CSR? Or as good as we can be by simply doing the right thing……..
Most of the noise about diversity on Boards and in Senior Leadership over recent years has been about getting women onto Boards. The claim is that gender-diverse Boards make a significant difference to company performance. Many reports support this. From the literature it seems, indeed, to be true, but that the difference is nonetheless very small (eg https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/will-gender-diversity-boards-really-boost-company-performance/)
It is often argued – I have used this argument – that a new emphasis, fuelled and accelerated by the young, on ethical responsibility and purpose, makes business sense; that whether or not business leaders care about the ethics, they must surely pay heed to the competitive ‘mood music’ – diversity, equality, climate: a new capitalism. I hope this comes to pass. But how about we stop trying to justify the business and reputational benefits of increasing diversity and equity in our ‘people profile’ and start just doing the right thing?
Cognitive diversity and fair remuneration on Boards and in senior roles in organisations can undoubtedly provide a richness of thought, experience and perspective. Without a full consideration of how to share power, however, and to value diverse voices, it can also denote the worst kind of tokenism. It’s all about the motivation; it takes all sorts to make a world, as they say.