Embracing Diversity of Perspectives


Embracing Diversity of Perspectives

January 19, 2021

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to be part of the University of Toronto’s Rotman Business Design eXchange (BDX) Initiative.  It was a great event with speakers from several companies all sharing ideas that would help business and design leaders become more effective.

After the event, I started to think more about the panel and specifically one question that was asked by the moderator Amy Sullivan, “What is a core value of design that informs your approach to leadership and why is it important?”

A simple question that forced me to sort through a variety of ideas and learnings of the past.  I had many different thoughts and ideas about how to answer this question.  After much internal debate, which was at times quite raucous, I decided on one thing – “Diversity of perspective.”  

When building a team, it is important to have individuals that think differently.  People that can expand the number of possibilities.  Effective teams capitalize on the tensions that exist when people tackle the same task from very different perspectives.  For example, an architect and a business analyst planning an oncology patient’s office experience or an introvert and an extrovert planning a social space.  These team members approach the same task using the tools, knowledge, and training that are familiar to them, but which might be something that their teammates have never considered before.  The advantage of employing a  diverse team is the chance it will lead to a greater scope of solutions considered and outcomes delivered.  

When working on a customer problem it is important to talk to diverse groups of customers.  An established leader in the field (John Maeda) once described Design Thinking as a faster way to gain consensus by starting with the customer.  In some cases that is true.  However, if you want to engage broadly it may slow things down and increase the difficulty of gaining consensus.  If we want to get outside perspectives from non-customers or find the small niches in our customer base it will take time.    However, what you lose in time, you gain in engagement from your customer base.  The best design performing companies increase their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry counterparts. (McKinsey Business Value of Design Report)

When reflecting on my own abilities, it is important to engage people with different strengths and values than my own.  It is in this way,  I will learn how to have success in diverse environments and scenarios.   Good work is driven by people so it is my responsibility to understand how to motivate different people and how they see me. 

It is easy to say but hard to constantly and consistently engage broadly for perspectives.  When working in a team, on a customer problem, or even reflecting on ourselves, it is easy to default to narrow engagement. By including more diverse perspectives it not only helps us design more effective and innovative solutions, but it helps us grow as leaders. 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


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