{A Note to Readers: Tomorrow evening our Chief Design Officer of Freeman – the amazing Bruce Mau – will be receiving the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 2016 National Design Award: Design Mind. I asked him to collaborate with me on this blog… and on a special announcement we’ll blog about tomorrow.}

Bob:  We are always surprised when people talk about “diversity in the workplace” as if it’s an end in itself—something companies do to look good, or to meet quotas, or to seem user-friendly to various demographic groups. This may be a holdover from the ‘60s and affirmative action laws—but it loses sight of the whole point of diversity. The idea is to create an inclusive culture that knows how best to use the individual talents of all its employees—and in that way, elevates the output of the enterprise as a whole.

diversity

Diversity of ideas is the payoff. Diversity is bigger than race, age, gender, size, physical ability or faith-based demographics. A dancer might understand things about gravity that aren’t expressed in Newton’s Laws of Motion. A photographer might see light in a different way than an optometrist. A musician might have insights into technology that would escape an experienced software developer.

Bruce:  Diversity helps us rise above the narrow assumptions that can quickly become institutional baggage. Because diversity brings fresh perspectives, new world views, and entirely different sets of filters, it helps us generate more innovative solutions. At the same time, it helps us fend off the gremlins that kill innovation: complacency, risk-adversity, ignorance and time constraints.

One of the ways Freeman and many other companies diversify is by hiring new people and acquiring new businesses. We’ve seen the benefits of this approach–it helps us keep pace with change. But it’s impractical to staff for every possible twist and turn in the market.

When we considered this challenge as a design problem, we arrived at a pretty brilliant conclusion…

Bob:  We’ll be making an announcement tonight at a press event and reception in NYC that honors Bruce’s achievement as the 2016 Design Mind. I can’t say just yet what that announcement is… but it’s really going to help Freeman raise our diverse-design-thinking quotient.

We’ll be back with more on this tomorrow… so stay tuned

~Bruce and bph