This week, Starbucks announced it's planning to add three new directors to its board.

This wouldn't typically be such big news, except for one thing: In doing so, the coffee giant is creating one of the country's most diverse corporate boards.

As reported by The New York Times:

The new directors, who will require shareholder approval, will be Rosalind Brewer, an African-American woman who is president and chief executive of Sam's Club and vice president of Walmart Stores; Satya Nadella, an Indian-American who is chief executive of Microsoft Corporation; and Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, the Denmark-born executive chairman of the Lego Brand Group.

With the additions, the Starbucks board would grow to 14 people; would be 29 percent female and 36 percent ethnic minority; and would include a range of ages from millennials to baby boomers.

Starbucks's proposed board is a stark contrast to the national average. According to the Times's report, women currently hold less than 20 percent of public corporate board seats, African Americans hold less than 9 percent, and Asians even less (about 5 percent).

But how exactly does diversity help a company?

Having grown up in a multicultural environment, I learned quickly how differently people can see the world. What we see too often nowadays, especially in larger companies, are leaders who all come from similar backgrounds. This type of leadership breeds groupthink and echo chambers, which are cancerous for any business.

In contrast, different cultures, backgrounds, and age groups bring along multiple perspectives and viewpoints, different ideas of how to get a job done, and increased flexibility. All of this contributes to innovative thinking and provides countless learning opportunities.

"I've tried to create an environment within the board that would be culturally similar to that of the company," Howard Schultz, the company's founder and chairman, told the Times. "People with like-minded values, domain expertise, diverse and deeply committed to transparency with a comprehensive understanding of our aspirations to create a great enduring company balancing profit with conscience."

Kudos to Starbucks for using diversity to broaden its perspective. Work hard to do the same, and you might be surprised at the world of learning that opens up.

Published on: Jan 26, 2017
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