When it comes to being successful in business, the quality of decisions is everything.
Despite our inclination to make decisions based on past experiences, personal biases and anecdotal evidence, focusing on diversity and inclusion offers significantly more value. This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring more people of color and equaling the gender balance (though those things are very important, too) — but rather broadening the input used to make choices.
This stance, which is from recent research by Cloverpop, naturally received a lot of backlash from those arguing that taking more people’s opinions into account leads to mediocrity. Erik Larson, CEO of the company that produced the white paper, both acknowledged and addressed the criticism in a piece for Forbes, writing:
At first blush, it could be that a more diverse decision-making process is just feel-good corporate window dressing, and so people on diverse teams are less self-critical and inflate their rates of success.
He goes on to say:
A diverse group of people is much more likely to be self-critical and spend more time dealing with disagreements. Our findings indicate this is a big part of why inclusive teams perform better — their decision process surfaces better choices and aligns their views more closely with reality.
Cloverpop’s research identifies seven practices that top companies use to make effective decision making:
1. Bias for Action
2. Broad Perspective
3. Fast and Efficient Process
4. Just-Right Analysis
5. Clear Communication
6. Aligned Expectation
7. Effective Feedback Loops
Let’s discuss these practices more below through things that businesses can do to cultivate a culture that leverages diversity and inclusion in their decision making.
Give Every Employee Baseline Data Skills
Today’s businesses have more insights available to them than ever, but all too often they prioritize the collection and storage of those findings instead of developing data literacy in the organization.
Two points that Larson discusses, “clear communication” and “effective feedback loops” relate specifically to cultivating a company culture fluent in data. According to his research, only one in five companies effectively communicates decisions on a regular basis. Building a culture in which employees know how to interact with data, and can speak about analytics terms clearly to other team members, means they’re much more likely to understand how decisions affect their work.
Additionally, when an organization communicates in a shared language around decisions and data, people are more committed to the choices they’ve made until they see the desired results.
At the same time, when results don’t match up with expectation, or when conditions that the decision was made on change, so too does the stance. This helps keep companies agile and proactive. Again, according to Larson, twice as many companies have issues with bad decisions sticking around too long because they don’t have a proper foundation to review and, if necessary, pivot.
Leverage Tools That Democratize Data Access
The paper mentions two points that speak directly to making analytics more accessible to users across the company: “fast and efficient process” and “just-right analysis.” The former describes the need for conclusions to be reached quickly with minimal time and effort used. The latter involves making decisions with a solid baseline of data, but not so much that people become overwhelmed.
Both these findings touch on the fact that many organizations make decisions too slowly, over-prioritizing the importance of a standalone choice and diminishing the potential of the decision in the process. The answer to these issues is to broaden data access, and ad-hoc search analytics tools help make this possible. Each user across a company can ask questions whenever curiosities arise and receive instant answers based on company data.
Make Decisions in Groups
Per Larson, in a typical meeting-driven decision process, the decision maker’s initial preferred choice ends up as the final verdict about 75 percent of the time. After all, decision-makers typically carry authority, and through that power, an established persuasiveness.
The white paper highlights “broad perspective” — which successful companies accomplish by getting broad input from stakeholders all the way down to the lowest-ranking team members — as an antidote to this flawed process. Their research finds that decision-making teams outperform individuals over two-thirds of the time, but inclusive teams fare even better, beating lone choice-makers 87 percent of the time.
Communicate and Align on Shared Business Goals
Unifying on overarching goals and instilling them into company culture might sound obvious, but that doesn’t mean organizations always follow through. The paper notes that companies achieve “aligned execution” when decisions are made with broad business goals in mind instead of the momentary, often narrow viewpoint of stakeholders or other authorities.
While this isn’t the most problematic area — more than one in three companies excel at this, and less than ten percent perform poorly — failing to do so can have grave consequences.
Getting buy-in from everyone in a company will yield better business outcomes, not to mention engage employees and improve their morale.
So, what are you waiting for? Trust the research and use these four strategies to leverage every mind in your enterprise.