Old White Men…Again!!

(A quick prelude…The Minnesota Summit on Ethics takes place on Friday, November 12th at St. Thomas University. If you are ready to take your own personal stand on ethics, please join us! Click here for more information. We hope to see you there!) 

The OWM Himself!

The phone rang on Tuesday morning. It was my Dad. “Being old and white, I’m wondering if I’m still relevant.” 

It’s always good to hear from him and he started a week of discussions about diversity and the role each one of us play. The discussions ranged from the virtues and experience that old white men bring to critical roles to the need for diversity to address today’s challenges. 

Unique perspectives are critical to creating success. We live in times where change continues to accelerate. That acceleration means that tenure no longer guarantees increasing, relative experience. Opportunities are coming from multiple, unexpected directions, making it more critical to include diverse perspectives in the critical decisions within our organizations.


The challenge is to find and create true insight. It’s a changing challenge in a world where the traditional link between tenure, experience, and insight is broken. Gray hair is no longer a necessary condition for wisdom. Younger people, from a wider collection of traditions, bring new views and critical opinions to situations. How do you make good decisions about who to bring into the process? 

Find people with unique, relevant views. Start by looking for folks who are doing unique things. People running non-profits deal with diversity on their boards and among their contributors. Leaders in the technology fields understand innovation and how it’s changing the playing field for all of us. Entrepreneurs struggle with many of the same business issues as larger companies, but with far fewer resources. All three represent fertile fields for finding unique views. 


Contributor from a different tradition

Find people from different traditions. That certainly means people with different ethnicities. It also means finding people from different life situations: from the city, the country, and different regions of the country. Economic backgrounds should also play a role in the selection. People from tough backgrounds will bring a different perspective than those coming from more privileged circumstances. Consider all of them in your decision.


The key is to find people who can consider issues from all possible sides. Yes, even old, while men have a place at the table. Create a collection of contributors who expand your horizons and improve your ability to make great decisions.


Oh yes…there’s one other role critical for success: the Synthesizer. With all the different perspectives and experience brought together, someone needs to be able to pull all the talent and opinions in the same direction. That’s the Synthesizer’s job. Diverse groups are hard to lead, and the right person in this role pulls out the best thinking and the clearest ideas from the group. Great results require synthesizers who are strong, inclusive, patient leaders. 

Ok Dad. Old, white, men still have their place. Let’s make sure we find others who can help us create success in this new era.


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November 2010
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