The idea for this book came to Martin Davidson during a disarmingly honest conversation with a CEO he worked with. “Look,” the executive said, clearly troubled. “I know we can get a diverse group of people around the table. But so what? What difference does it really make to getting bottom-line results?”
Answering the “so what?” led Davidson to explore more deeply how companies typically manage diversity. He saw there were serious problems. Companies weren’t effectively building diversity into their larger business strategy. Also, the emphasis on common differences like gender, age, race, and sexual orientation was interfering with the ability to identify less obvious differences that have more impact on a business. And traditional diversity efforts were often hindering the professional development of the very people they were designed to help.
In his book, Davidson explains how what he calls Leveraging Difference™ turns persistent diversity problems into solutions that drive business results. Difference becomes a powerful source of sustainable competitive advantage instead of a distracting mandate handed down from HR.
To leverage difference, Davidson argues, leaders must tackle three challenges. First, they must identify and hire for the differences most important to achieving organizational goals, even if the differences aren’t the obvious ones. Second, leaders must help employees work together to understand the ways these differences matter to the business. And finally, leaders must roll up their sleeves and experiment with how to use these relevant differences to get things done. Davidson provides several examples of how organizations leverage subtle differences like culture, thought, and personality as well as more noticeable differences like race and gender.
Ultimately this is a leadership book, not a diversity book. Actively leveraging difference, rather than reactively managing diversity, can be what distinguishes an ordinary organization from an extraordinary one.