Can Diversity Drive Business Results?
In a recent interview with Stu Taylor from the Stu Taylor on Business radio show, Karen Cvitkovich, a Senior Consultant at Aperian Global and co-author of the newly published book Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts talked about global leadership, the benefit and challenges of diverse perspectives in an organization and what drives business results and innovation in the 21st century.
Listen to the full interview here or read on for a key summary.
An experienced facilitator and trainer, Karen reflected on the shift in leadership practices and what seems to be setting successful organizations apart from the rest. “When I first started doing work with global leaders about 15 years ago, the focus was much more on headquarter’s point of view and best practices, disseminating that to global locations. But over the course of the last years, there is much more of an awareness of the influence that subsidiaries can make on the success. For many organizations their highest growth markets are outside of the U.S.”
“Finding the balance between efficiency and scalability and creating innovation in new products is often one of the great challenges that global organizations face.”- Karen Cvitkovich
With mergers and acquisitions remaining a major strategy of growth in key markets, the problems organization face in integrating new teams often arrive past any due diligence measures, as Cvitkovich notes: “Very often, the biggest stumbling blocks happen after the decision has been made, as the organization tries to integrate the teams from one organization and the teams from another. We need more focus on the new organizational culture and best practices of teamwork […] spend additional time to really think strategically about how to integrate the team.”
The struggle to integrate the full range and diversity of opinions and perspectives is what keeps companies from reaching their best potential performance ranges. “One of the negatives of having so many different perspectives in a business process is it typically takes a little bit longer to get things done. There tends to be a higher level of conflict initially. Some organizations will actually find that homogeneous teams are able to work together more quickly and with less of a degree of conflict, particularly at an early stage of the work. But [in homogeneous teams] there tends to be groupthink. They may actually miss an important element of it that could be really important as that product goes to market.” elaborates Karen further.
What changes can organizations make to reap the benefits of diversity?
“Work to create an environment where people are willing to say the unsaid.” – Karen Cvitkovich
Organizations that reward and encourage leaders to create inclusive leadership practices will continuously see the impact that different perspectives can bring to their level of innovation and process improvement. Leaders themselves can start by asking themselves two key questions:
- Who are the key individuals that I invite to the table when I am making major business decisions? How much do those individuals represent different perspectives in the organization?
- What is my own perspective- what are my strengths and what are my blindspots?
The senior consultant adds: “Some of the most successful global leaders are those that start with themselves, their own self-awareness how their own beliefs and best practices are shaped by the culture they come from. And then […] inviting the perspectives of as many individuals as possible, whether that be in different geographical locations or different functional parts of the organization. That diversity of perspectives seems to be what is really driving business results in successful global organizations.”
Intrigued to read more about leadership strategies as the center shifts? Get a copy of the new Leading Across New Borders book here or download a free chapter.
Karen Cvitkovich has worked as an intercultural consultant, facilitator, and coach for almost two decades. As a Senior Consultant with Aperian Global, she has assisted clients in the areas of global leadership, teams, negotiations, diversity & inclusion, change management and post-acquisition integration. She holds a M.S. from Lesley University in Training and Organizational Development and a BBA in Business from the University of Massachusetts. She has written a variety of articles and is the co-author of What is Global Leadership?.