What can Santa teach entrepreneurs?

He is seldom featured on Forbes, but Santa Claus is the quintessential entrepreneur. Once a dreamy dropout with a questionable business plan, he has succeeded in leaving his mark in history while positively affecting the life of many.

A pioneer in disruption (measuring customer satisfaction in cookies, and staying relevant without any social media presence), Santa also embodies perennial improvement. Most recently, he has committed to digitizing 50% of the postage he receives by 2020.

So what does Santa get right that many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t?

The team.

In Santa’s workshop, Cinnamon and Peppermint do the packaging, and Bob handles the accounting.

Today, homogeneity is no longer an option. Thanks to globalization, we now have the world at arm’s reach. This new reality results in an unprecedented collective awareness of different cultures, and our place relative to them.

We are also beginning to understand how talent and intelligence come in all kinds of shapes. This is helping us develop a mindset that identifies potential early, and shies away from one-size-fits-all solutions.

If anything, success today boils down to our ability to capitalize on diversity to deliver value. This is particularly relevant in a team setting.

Assuming a common level of aptitude and commitment across all members, the more varied a team is, the better. It is then up to good leadership to make a symphony (or a carol) from the disarray of notes.

With this in mind, here are three things that Santa can teach entrepreneurs.

1. Capitalize on cultural diversity. Culture is the scaffolding of one’s perception. As geographical borders become less relevant, it is essential to have people from culturally diverse backgrounds in a team. For instance, a variety of perspectives facilitates scaling any solution by making it applicable to a wider geographical and cultural context.

Is your value proposition valuable everywhere? Can you communicate it effectively across different markets? In this sense, culturally diverse teams are a competitive advantage that can save one a sea worth of tears.

Santa knows this. After all, he manages to have children all over the world wake up with the same feeling of joy on Christmas morning.

2. Capitalize on multidisciplinary thinking. Different backgrounds offer different operational angles. While a literature major might see Don Quixote as the pinnacle of the Spanish Golden Age, an engineer might see a heavy counterweight. This is priceless.

We often go about ‘thinking outside the box’ in a forceful manner, not realizing how the box can open itself when surrounded by people who think in different ways. This is because creativity is associative by nature, and you need diversity to associate anything in the first place.

When it comes to the planning stage, multidisciplinary teams make for the wildest of brainstorming sessions. In the execution stage, having people with different fortes ensures operational excellence and a greater flexibility.

Covering 1.9 billion kids in one night, Operation Christmas Morning takes logistics to another level every year. Its 100% success rate across centuries leaves no doubt that it involves more than one type of elf.

3. Capitalize on different personalities. Arguably, the invisible threat for any team is thinking monotonously. Granted, contrarian thinkers must be able to share the same vision, but it is imperative to have somebody on the team who thinks at a different frequency. It keeps things balanced.

Especially for entrepreneurs, working in a team where everybody agrees with what is thrown at the table is lethal. Assumptions must be revisited constantly, and disagreements are a great way of ensuring this happens. There is a myriad of personalities out there, and just as many tools to know where one falls. Similar personalities make for great conversation. Complementary personalities make for great teams.

It is easier said than done, but if a team manages to balance its different personalities it will become unstoppable. Having the right amount of creative tension leads to a team culture of constant improvement, and to wonderful solutions.

How naughty is naughty? And how nice is nice? Just imagine how many hours Santa and his team must have spent before settling on one answer…if they have at all.

Cultures, disciplines, and personalities… now you know a little bit more of what goes behind that present under your tree. So, how are you capitalizing on diversity to improve you team?

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