Recent calculations have determined that the observable universe comprises only 4 percent of the cosmos. Dark matter comprises 23 percent, and the remaining 73 percent is not matter at all. It is energy, and its astrophysical nomenclature is “dark energy.” Scientists cannot adequately explain dark energy, but they do have a clear understanding of its effects.
We can learn valuable lessons from the scientists in order to harness the potential energy of diversity in the corporate cosmos.
Individuality: Humanity’s Dark Energy
Humans tend to be curious and intellectually tidy—even prehistoric people attempted to create order and logic out of the universe. That predilection motivates people to try to create order in the world that swirls around us. Whether it be astrology or pop-up menus, humans are comfortable with organization, classification and compartmentalization.
For example, astrology contains 12 classifications, and everyone belongs in one of the distinct groups. Psychometrics takes a similar approach. Adherents to its principles have determined that every human can be categorized by 16 designations of extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving. But can the 16 psychometric designations possibly embody the entire human cosmos?
If classifying humans embodies only a small percentage of the human cosmos, it is incumbent upon us to investigate our dark energy. As with the universe, the knowledge must be gained kinetically and interactively, not through profiling or compartmentalizing.
In this age of diversity, we cannot feel confident that we have “typed” people fully or grouped them precisely. The true measure of individuality may lie in areas where we cannot look.
In the cataloging process, we not only define what something is, but also what it is not. A Capricorn cannot also be an Aquarius. An extrovert is unique from an introvert, and a left-brainer is quite different from a right-brainer. There is danger in grouping people by type: The typing becomes typecasting, and the classifications become self-limiting. Cataloging individuals creates a tunneling of our observations and judgments, and we begin the process of predefining people. This slope can be just as slippery as that from pre-judgment to prejudice.
To fully appreciate individuality, we must utilize “diversity kinetics.” Organizational development practitioners may provide great insight. The power of dark energy reveals itself through the decision-making and problem-solving kinetics of the workgroup.
Improving Leadership in the Age of Diversity
Paramount to a leader’s success is the ability to establish a group’s identity, influence its behavior and build its collective confidence. Employing psychometric methods has facilitated these goals. By having “knowledge” of the types of people that are on a team, the leader’s ability to guide and direct increases. However, in today’s diverse corporations, leaders must also be navigators, seeking unfiltered information and perspective.
Individuals can possess leadership qualities, and then acquire the skills to become effective leaders. However, a leader cannot possibly possess the requisite insight to the dark energy within the members of a diverse team. No one can possibly know each individual’s unique talents and insights. Therefore, leaders must develop progressive leadership skills, specifically designed to maximize the contribution of all team members. As we learned in high school science, energy has two forms: potential and kinetic. Corporations must activate the potential locked within their diverse workforces and release the kinetic energy to improve corporate performance.
An Empowering Operating Environment
To realize the full potential of this energy, we must view diversity as if it were the fuel powering a nuclear reactor. The energy must be released and it must be directed toward an objective. Individuality requires a new workgroup process that maximizes the effects of potential energy in the decision-making and problem-solving process.
Leadership training programs must expand their scope and curriculum. Leaders must focus on the unrealized asset value that lies within diverse organizations. Diversity can then be recognized and leveraged for its tactical and strategic asset value.
Executives must replace the decision-making reactors and bring them on-line before any more dark energy is wasted.
Vincent M. Cramer is the author of “Cramer’s Cube,” and the founder of Winchester Consulting Group, an organizational development and training company. He can be reached at email@example.com.