I don’t believe diversity is a problem that needs to be fixed. Diversity offers an incredible opportunity to not only build high performing and competitive teams, but unite companies and build a nation. But it’s not automatic.
I have made the case in the past that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams on almost every measurement: profitability, productivity, cost savings and innovation. This, however, is only true when cultural intelligence (CQ) levels are high. In fact, when CQ levels are low, homogenous teams will outperform diverse teams.
This reminds me of my cricket team in Chicago. The league was made up of teams that were either entirely Indian or Pakistani expats, and often the majority of the team was from the same home town. Our team had seven Indians, four Pakistanis, four South Africans, one West Indian and one American (with a mean baseball arm!). There were different religious affiliations within these nationalities which added another layer of complexity. The first year was tumultuous, to say the least, but our mutual passion for cricket kept us together. In our second year, we hit our straps and against all odds won the league. This was not because we had the best team, but because we were able to leverage each other’s differences and work together as a team.
This is why I have embarked on the journey to improve my own cultural intelligence by obtaining my Level 2 CQ and Unconscious Biases certification in Chicago next week. I want to use this course to further improve the way I work with people from diverse backgrounds – especially in my own country. I expect the course to go beyond just cultural awareness and sensitivity by teaching me a mental model for diagnosing and responding to intercultural situations day-to-day.
My hope is that upon my return I will be able to come alongside individuals and organisations, and help them assess and improve their CQ. When they understand their baseline, then they can begin to leverage the beauty of their differences. Imagine what a South Africa we’ll be if more people do this!
I hope that you’ll join me on this journey to become more culturally intelligent, not for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of inclusivity.