Sometimes it is needed to take a position. This is one of those moments. While on the global level the winds blow the other direction, new forms of nationalism dominate the news and we try to keep everything that is different out of the door, the important of diversity and inclusion become more and more clear.
The IT function isn’t doing a very good job. If a company is not making its diversity targets, it is usually because of the lack of diversity in the IT department, dragging the averages of the overall organization down. While further research shows that 60% of people that are looking for a new job, value diversity within prospective employers. And 80% of professionals directly relate diversity with the ability of an organization to innovate.
Diversity is the core of resilience of every ecosystem. Monocultures may have the drive and the focus on the short term (“Go for it!”), maar don’t see societal change and go down with twice the speed as they came up.
When we think about diversity, we immediately relate that to gender, culture, and having the right mix between millenials and older generations. But there is a more important type of diversity underlying all of this. Cognitive diversity. Having different thinking styles on a team. That can be a nuisance, there is always somebody that raises concerns, but it leads to better results.
Because of the enormous impact of technology on society, we increasingly have to deal with unforeseen and unintended consequences. Big data and privacy, 3D printing and IP, AI and loss of jobs. LED and light pollution. Within monocultures you just wouldn’t even see, it’s an externality. Something we don’t feel responsibility for. But on the societal level, there are no externalities, and we do carry responsibility. If we look at our digital innovation and transformation through multiple lenses, the chance we do foresee these consequences is much bigger, and the solutions we come up with will be much more inclusive.
Last blog I was talking about fake news and how we urgently need to solve that problem. Diversity is the key. If we all live in our own little bubble, fake news easily rules. We just don’t know any better. But if we have multiple points of view on the world, fake news has no chance.
Let’s extrapolate the idea of diversity a few steps. Something we played with in the opening keynote of the Data and Analytics Summits. Let’s consider the idea of data diversity and algorithmic diversity. The old idea of one version of the truth doesn’t work if information is coming from all sides. Having multiple sources, each in their own way pointing in more or less the same direction, leads to far higher levels of trust. And running multiple different algorithms at the same time, each using a different set of techniques and each with a slightly different set of rules, leads to much more balance and a much smaller opportunity fort he system to go rampant.
We’ve seen a little bit too much of that lately.
Frank Buytendijk (@FrankBuytendijk) is a Research Fellow at Gartner Research & Advisory and a pioneer in the field of digital ethics, #digitalsociety, and futurism.