Is diverse hiring like playing chess or learning to dance?
Is hiring for diversity like playing chess or learning to dance?
Iris Bohnet writes in “What Works: Gender Equality by Design” that many people imagine that if they hire for more diversity it’s a zero sum game. She notes: it’s better to think of it, not as a game of chess, but like learning how to dance. The chessboard versus the dance floor. Both have rules, players, strategies and tactics, but one has a winner and a loser. The other, relies on harmony and synchronicity and works better the more people play.
The world of work can feel like it’s set up such that if I take a piece of pie, you don’t get one. But in reality we need to change it so that my piece of pie doesn’t mean less for you.
Why is workplace gender equality so important?
Dr. Bohnet notes that gender diverse teams have higher scores when tested on collective intelligence. She points to a global simulation, based on real world data, that shows if you exclude women from the workforce, the given country has a loss of income per capita of almost 40%. When it comes to gender balance in the workplace, the stakes are high. If we don’t invite more people to the dance, we all suffer.
Ideas are like a fire
Sharing is where it all begins. The world of work, at its best, is much like the world of ideas. Thomas Jefferson, who was the first head of the US Patent Office, pointed out that ideas are like fire. If you light a candle and use that candle to light someone else’s candle, it doesn’t diminish your flame. Ideas are a kind of property owned by the inventor, but they are non-rivalrous.
Other kinds of property suffer from the tragedy of the commons (if my horses eat all the grass in the commons, your horses won’t have any to eat). When he created the patent system he wanted to encourage inventors to invent and share their ideas in the commons, so you can get a patent for a fixed period of time, and reap the rewards of licensing that patent to others. But after that period of time the idea is released into the public to open up the inventive spirit of society. Sharing ideas so they could be built upon, remixed, evolved, and become elements of other inventions was what led to the greatest period of creativity and innovation society had ever seen.
A fascinating study looked at an effort that one of the original unicorn founders instigated. He invested in social infrastructure for sharing knowledge for all. It was called the Carnegie Public Library System. Andrew Carnegie donated $34.5 million dollars (about a billion dollars if adjusted for today’s currency) to construct 1,500 public libraries across the United States.
In this study that explores the impact of his investment, we see some wonderful news. Some cities ultimately rejected building the libraries, but in cities that accepted the donation and built the libraries, patent activity increased by 20% over the following 10 to 20 years and for decades after. Having a free place to learn about and share ideas that welcomed all to the table made a vast difference in the creativity and livelihood of that community’s members.
Don’t be shy, share your dance moves
We believe so much in the idea of sharing ideas: for how to hire for skills and potential over pedigree, for how to share the best questions that help illuminate experiences and competencies hiding in underserved communities. Also for how to reduce bias in hiring and the interview process and invest in the world that could be (if we teach and learn how to dance). All of us are smarter than any one of us. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Hireguide believes in the power of sharing and we have two ways to share your best practices. First, just use the platform as you interview job seekers. Our question and answer bank is built like the public library system to give you access to powerful ways of interviewing based on job analysis, skills, potential and over 30 years of interview science.
Our conversational AI system is built to help discover emergent insights and in the long run, when enough of our crowd’s wisdom is discovered by the system, you’ll be able to access new questions and ways of framing key points in the interview that help you find candidates that want to help your business thrive.
Second, we’ve built in the ability for you to not only write your own favorite questions into the mix but also share them with your team, or even the rest of the community, so you can learn and teach each other. We make it easy for everyone to engage in diverse recruitment and inclusive hiring.
Dr. Bohnet points out that we have a part of our brain that forms stereotypes and biases all the time to help us survive in times of uncertainty by acting quickly. It makes us believe that “what we see is all there is.” She illuminates this challenge by noting that because of these stereotypes, how we believe the world to be often turns into prescriptions for what the world should be. So should the world be a game of chess or should it be more like dancing?
Why is diversity important in hiring?
If we invest in all people, by sharing our workplace, our ideas, our struggles and our successes, we reap the inherent benefits of that feeling. We gain a sense of purpose and belonging that the act of working provides. We will all be better - the more we allow people to dance.