Intellectual Diversity & Corporate Culture
Iterative processes seem to be all the rage in the corporate sector right now. I find this to be mildly amusing. Have no CXO’s ever taken piano lessons? Musicians, artists, dancers, carpenters, chefs and athletes have used and understood iterative processes for centuries. They live them every day.
Process Engineering from a Chain Smoking Pianist
My God, I do believe that’s the worst thing I have ever heard. Those soul crushing words were uttered by my first really good piano teacher at our initial meeting. She had trained numerous national competition winners and was one tough, chain smoking cookie. Our 1-hour lessons inevitably turned into 2-hour, brutal, extreme workout sessions while she was trying to teach me how to practice. Her English Bulldog, Max snored under the baby grand through every lesson. Learning to practice effectively took years and Max stuck it out with me.
Iterative Production Processes
It’s the same process whether you are talking about a piano sonata or an electrical engineering problem. Isolate difficulties into small packages. Practice, work out the problem in ultra slow motion. Do it again and again and again, until you get it right, gradually getting faster and better. Repeat the process with the next difficulty and start building it out one component at a time until you have the process going from end to end. That’s when you discover new macro problems and difficulties you hadn’t previously anticipated at the micro level. So, you go back and work through the new problems until you find solutions. It could take hours, weeks or months to solve the problems, depending on the scope and difficulties of the project.
Button Up Your Shirt!
I recently worked on a contract at a conservative international corporation and received a call from my manager who was working at a location about 100 miles away. “Button up your shirt” he shouted. “It’s a political thing. Just go along with me on this.”
I was stunned. I was appropriately dressed in business casual attire that was a few notches above the average employee. I thought I was looking quite posh! An HR manager spotted me working with some vendors in a common area and noticed that my shirt was open to the second button – where I always wear it. She tracked down my manager at another location and relayed the message for me to button my shirt. Several HR minions probably had to be pulled in to rectify this crisis.
If this sort of thing is going on in your corporation, your operations and corporate culture are way off course and completely broken. This is a symptom of huge organizational problems. Six figures to be a button cop? What does that contribute to the organization’s mission and how are you going to fix this sort of problem in your organization?
HR Departments in medium to large US and multinational corporations seem to have done a pretty good job at creating racial and ethnic diversity in their organizations. Their most spectacular success though, has been the complete eradication of diversity of thought in the workforce. In spite of the very superficial aspect of skin color, everyone dresses the same, thinks the same and speaks the same corporate mumbo jumbo. How can you address business problems requiring massive process changes when everyone thinks exactly alike?
There is only One True Form of Diversity
Diversity of thought is the only real form of diversity. The product of an employee’s brain is the only contribution he or she can make to an organization’s effort to produce a quality product or service. If everyone thinks the same, your business operations will always be the same. You can never improve them. From this point of view, there is no diversity at all in most large corporations, regardless of what their EEO-4 reports may state. There is no measurement for Intellectual Diversity. There is no box to check for:
☑ Thinks Differently
Tilting at Windmills
In the 12 seconds that corporate recruiters supposedly spend sizing up a candidate on paper, there is no way to assess anything except a candidate’s CQ (Cooperation Quotient). In the early 90’s I was working my way through grad school at a Fortune 500 company. The engineers complained that HR always sent them unqualified candidates. The Boss and engineers would interview the candidates, ask them a few basic questions, and reject them. They looked good on paper, but they didn’t actually know how to build and troubleshoot circuits – our department’s mission. The Boss would then send the staff engineers to job fairs to recruit the people who were eventually hired. One of the company’s top Master Engineers still hadn’t completed his BSEE yet. In the current environment, that genius of an engineer wouldn’t even get an interview. Finding the perfect fit is like tilting at windmills.
Selection for Intellectual Diversity
If corporate recruiters started considering Intellectual Diversity rather than selecting for Cooperation Quotient, companies could identify and recruit more creative candidates who would almost certainly provide fresh perspectives and effective solutions for business problems. These are the potential employees whose brains can’t be squeezed into an 8-foot cubicle. Those artists, musicians, sculptors and bakers have developed knowledge, skills, perspectives and problem solving abilities that traditionally trained staff may never be able to acquire. It’s simply a matter of applying those skills to a different metaphor, which is a fairly simple transition if your brain has already been programmed for it.
There is a huge risk though – those new recruits may not button up their shirts all the way.
If you would like to discuss improving business and IT processes in your organization, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Morgan is President of e-volve Information Technology Services and has worked as an independent consultant since 1993.
Information Technology Governance for Executives