On Diversity

Unfortunately, it seems that many firms and organisations nowadays still hold a misguided conceptualisation of what true diversity entails — and the genuine potential it holds. Narrowly defined, diversity is about increasing gender, ethnic, or class representation; that is to say, through recruitment of people from underrepresented groups. However, I think that the idea of diversity ought to go beyond simply increasing various identity-group affiliations, to include cognitive diversity; that is to say, thinking differently.

To paraphrase former U.S Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in life we often encounter known-knowns: there are things that we know we know. We are also aware of the known-unknowns: that is, we know there are things that we do not know. Most importantly, however, there are unknown-unknowns: the things that we do not know we do not know. If we take a step back and look at global history, it is this latter category that has proven to be the most risky.

As a result, diversity to me should ultimately be about eliminating these unknown-unknowns (i.e. beyond its self-evident contribution to increased equality and fairness). That is to say, the level of variety in perspectives seems inversely proportional to the risk a society, organization, or individual runs of being blindsided by the things it, he, or she does not know it does not know. The more varied the viewpoints present, the smaller the chance to be surprised by something that we had not anticipated.