Linking organisational development and diversity may seem incongruous, sort of linking goat’s milk and lettuce. However, it’s a highly salient relationship.

Organisational development aims to enable organisations to navigate the changes necessary for survival and growth in changing times. While obvious change will inevitably sponsor resistance and fear amongst the workforce, certain organisational characteristics can make people more receptive to grasp the nettle of change when the need arises. One of these is diversity.

I’m referring to a diversity of demographics, a pooling of differences that may generate the kind of exchanges that lead to surprisingly productive innovations. A diversity of psychopathologies might be counterproductive, but if we acknowledge that every human being comes with a range of strengths and weaknesses, talents and blind spots, it becomes obvious that we have a duty to keep our “inner conservatives” sufficiently in check to allow our inner poets – or even our inner mavericks – some room to play.

Human minds tend to be resistive-conservative when confronted with the prospect of strange novelties that may fundamentally alter the work environs to which they’ve become accustomed. This isn’t to disparage what I’m calling “conservatism”; a desire to conserve what has become precious or what works well is nothing to be ashamed of. However, if our conservatism paralyses our innovative, change-embracing selves entirely, we’re doomed to a suffocating stasis.

If our conservative selves glue us to the familiar and influence our perceptions in such a way that we designate “new-different” as “strange-bad”, we may find ourselves subliminally barring talented people from joining our organisations because they don’t conform to our unexamined presuppositions.

I’d like to move on to an exploration of what works when expanding diversity successfully next time. I’ll conclude with what I hope will be a teaser for next time: a good deal of diversity training has no positive effect. Next time, I’ll seek to reply to the question, “So, what is to be done?”

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