Diversity vs Talent

We are learning the advantages of biodiversity in nature and agriculture, and of course the potential dangers of monoculture. Similarly in many organisations people are learning the benefits that diversity can bring. Differing viewpoints, experiences and talents all contribute in different ways. One of the simplest examples in business is that those who possess institutional history may lack modern technological skills, and the people who have the technological skills are lacking the institutional history. But combining those talents can produce significant results.

Bringing all those differing skills and experiences together can enhance the performance of any business.
But should we be placing the need to have visible diversity ahead of the need for talent?
Very often today we are seeing calls for mandated diversity. There is clamour for representation from different cultures, colours, sexual preferences and even hairstyles on boards, committees, classroom intakes and just about any group you can measure.

I think it is important that the bouffant and the mullet are both present on the boards of our major listed companies and in Parliament, as well as in the intakes of students to make-up academies. We certainly don’t want all those eminent institutions to be solely composed from the ranks of old white men. Because differing life experiences, skills, training and hairstyles all bring a diversity of thought and ability to any gathering.

But very often what we need more than diversity is talent and skill – irrespective of colour, religion or gender. Because talent and skill come in many guises.
I would argue that the most benefit to any organisation or group is through the assembly and utilisation of talent, without being blinded by the form it comes in.
Let’s dispense with the fixation with ensuring we have representation from every variant of hair and eye colour, and focus on what really matters – skill and talent.