Do you have a diverse company? Most of us believe we pick the best candidates to join our team regardless of gender, ethnicity, or disability--and that we try to build products and services that cater to all types of consumers. But humans have blind spots, and for entrepreneurs, those blind spots can lead to missed opportunities.
I have spent the past decade teaching leaders how to see what everyone else misses. I call this "non-obvious thinking," and the benefits aren't hard to understand. Entrepreneurs immediately appreciate the value of being able to see what others don't. Everyone wants to be more innovative and creative. But the benefits of diversity and inclusion aren't as well understood.
My new book Beyond Diversity, which I co-authored with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) expert Jennifer Brown (and the support of six other contributors), aims to make a difficult and sensitive topic more approachable. Our collaboration started earlier this year, with a virtual summit that brought together over 200 speakers--including leaders, entrepreneurs, VCs and entertainers--to share their best insights into the ways that focusing on diversity, inclusion and equity might offer some surprising benefits for companies of all sizes. Here are some of the best lessons we share in the book:
Find new audiences.
More than a decade ago, every leading motorcycle brand was focused on marketing to men. Today the fastest growing consumer segment for many of these brands is women. This "ungendering" of entire industries is a trend that I've been watching and writing about since 2010. Fashion brands like Stella McCartney are creating gender-neutral clothing lines. Cosmetics brands like Tom Ford, YSL and Estée Lauder are all producing makeup lines for men.
This idea of finding new audiences is not restricted to gender. Olay just launched a new "easy open lid" designed to make their packaging more inclusive to customers with disabilities. P&G redesigned bottles of Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner with tactile markers to help the vision-impaired distinguish the difference between bottles. Each of these brands are pioneering new inclusive product ranges and finding new audiences by listening to the lived experience of diverse team members and diverse customers.
Rethink your language.
Many times, we inadvertently choose language for our websites and job descriptions that send the wrong kind of signal--that only certain types of employees or customers are welcome. One startup we featured in our book is a company called Textio that offers an "augmented writing" platform which helps people change the way they write. Textio's online tool helps make users' writing more inclusive by spotlighting language that may alienate some people and suggesting alternative language. Tools like this help us understand and eliminate hidden biases and increase our understanding of the impact language has.
Focus on intersections, not categories.
Conversations about diversity regularly push us to pick one dimension of ourselves at the expense of others. These dimensions are the lenses that shape how we perceive our place in the world, and how others perceive us. Being Hispanic, or female, or gay, or over 50, or adopted, or disabled--or any combination of these identities--offers each of us a unique perspective of the world. But we can only understand one another as people if we are willing to accept all of these dimensions instead of forcing people to choose one identity over another. When people feel safe enough to express their true personalities and identities at work and in life, they feel a sense of belonging. This belonging can optimize performance and increase loyalty, and it all comes from being willing to let people truly bring themselves to work.
Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or running a business with multiple employees, focusing on creating more diverse and inclusive products or bringing more diverse team members into your group can generate big results.