One of the fields I am active in is Diversity Management. When I talk about diversity in a business context one of the first question people always ask (either actually asking or it’s the elephant on the table that no-one seems to wants to point out) is “what is diversity?”
It’s a simple and obvious question but there wasn’t really a definition I found satisfactory when I googled it so I decided to write down my own definition. Here it is:

What is Diversity
In nature diversity (or biodiversity) is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet (wikipedia).

Diversity in a business context is about the tolerance*) we have for the degree of variation of people who are different from ourselves within the given ecosystem called the organisation. It’s about finding a balance between being permissive and being prejudice.

This balance in tolerance manifests itself in
Mindset – diversity of thinking
Competencies – diversity of skills
Demographics – diversity of appearance

You can uncover this balance within your own organisation by answering the following questions about your organisation’s culture:

  • Are new and radical ideas and approaches encouraged?
  • Is making of mistakes accepted as a vehicle for learning?
  • Is diversity in behaviour and beliefs fully accepted, both within and outside?
  • Are all competency and leadership profiles alike or are they complementary?
  • Is the organisation focusing on strengthening people’s strengths or on fixing their weaknesses?

On a personal level you can also assess your own balance, among others by asking yourself

  • When you think differently from the group, do you speak out?
  • Do you value & appreciate people who think differently from you?
  • Are you bringing your whole self to work; Do you conform to the group or are you demonstrating personal leadership?
  • Are you authentic?
  • Are others authentic around you?

*) Tolerance: I realize that the term “tolerance” also has a live of its own. With Tolerance I mean “the level to which we can endure something”

If you find this definition useful or have additions please let me know


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