Why one polling expert sees lack of diversity as the most dangerous blind spot affecting corporate America today.

Staff Writer

For more than two decades, survey researcher and polling expert, Tom Webster, has been studying people’s voting and buying behaviors. Webster serves as the vice-president of strategic marketing for Edison Research. Edison is the behind exit polling for all U.S. presidential elections including the most recent Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton face off. Edison’s team analyzes data that offer insights not only into the kinds actions people take but why they take them.

Despite news reports that might lead one to believe that the polling was not accurate, Webster noted in the podcast interview that they had a sense of the outcome early during election day. However, they don’t jump to early conclusions. They are statisticians and polling experts, not guessers. I had the good fortune to interview Webster on the Grow My Revenue Business Cast.

Danger Lurking

One of the biggest dangers facing corporate America today, he says, is creating an environment where everyone seems to be taking the same actions for the same reasons.

Lack of diversity is the enemy of many organizations today, he says. This doesn’t just mean traditional categories of diversity. It extends to diversity of political viewpoints, too.

“If you’re at a company, or you’re running a company, and you literally don’t know anybody that voted for Hillary or (anyone who) voted for Trump, whichever side of the fence you’re on, I would submit that you have some issues with understanding customers,” Webster said in a recent interview.

Hidden Bias

“It’s that kind of…bias that I think is one of the great dangers of corporate America,” he adds. “We don’t have all of the voices present in the room that we think we need to have, or that we ought to have, in order to develop products or marketing.”

As technology advances and businesses become more globalized, creating a truly diverse organizational culture that incorporates basic human principles and fosters diversity of ideas and perspectives is not just good for employees, Webster argues. It’s good for business.

Here Are Five Key Benefits of Fostering Diversity in the Workplace.

Increased Creativity A diversity of ideas and viewpoints can lead to creative breakthrough. A company made up of employees from diverse ethnic backgrounds, generations, genders, races and religions (just to name a few) has more creative energy to harness than one with a more homogenized workforce.

Foster Innovation Different practices that arise from having lived in a foreign country or speaking a foreign language or practicing a certain religion can lead to innovative products like Nike’s new “Pro Hijab”, a lightweight, breathable headcover for female Muslim athletes.

Better Consumer Understanding If you don’t have somebody with a diverse viewpoint in your boardroom then you very likely don’t have your finger on the pulse of a demographic group you purport to serve if somebody’s not advocating for that position.

“If you don’t have those voices in your research…you’re denying yourself the potential opportunity to explore different markets that you’re not even thinking about,” Webster says.

Richer Brainstorming A diversity of opinions, ideas and input can lead to richer, more productive discussions during brainstorming sessions. In contrast, an environment where everyone’s opinions mirror each other has a high probability of producing stagnant results.

“(That) kind of homophily of mindset and the feedback you get in brainstorming sessions…is a really dangerous thing for any company,” Webster says.

Better Decision Making Diverse perspectives lead to better decisions — for your company, your employees and your customers.

What You Might Be Missing

“What don’t you know about your potential customers, what voices aren’t you getting from your market research, what voices aren’t you getting in your boardroom, what voices aren’t you getting in your brainstorming sessions,” Webster asks.

“I submit it’s a very dangerous thing not to know.”

It’s Your Turn

Where do you see a lack of diversity hampering your business potential? Join in the conversation in the comments or via social media.