The ketchup problem (or why diversity is good for your business)

I’ve worked for several companies that advocate diversity and I’m glad to witness that many companies today take action toward hiring people from different backgrounds.

Many of those companies base their initiatives for diversity on the moral basis that this is the right thing to do. In my opinion, this is not enough.

This can be seen as a white savior syndrome, as one might say that the white male executives (which make up the majority of C-level decision makers in companies in the western world) decide to hire some people that don’t look like them as a favor to minorities.

But by hiring people from different ethnic, cultural, class backgrounds you’re making your business stronger. And people tend to forget that.

Let’s say you’re home, ready to eat some delicious fries and, as usual, you want to enjoy them with ketchup. Unfortunately, you just realize you’re out of ketchup, so you decide to use some other condiment.

Where were you looking for ketchup?

In the cupboard? The refrigerator?

This simple question will probably define which condiment you will use instead of ketchup.

English people tend to store ketchup in the cupboard, so they might go for vinegar as a second option. Americans will probably store ketchup in the fridge, so they might choose mayonnaise as a second option while they’re looking in there.

The same phenomenon will apply to your business or organization. If everyone is from the same background they will apply the same solution to a given problem. Having diverse people on your team will help you see things from different perspectives and solve problems in a fresh new way.

Remember that diversity is not only limited to race, ethnicity or religion. It could include education, culture and experiences in general. If your Silicon Valley company only hires developers from Stanford, you’re probably getting the same answer from everyone to your specific “ketchup problem”.

Or if your hiring criteria are very narrow in terms of prior experience you might be missing out on great ideas that your team couldn’t think of.

Go and hire diverse people. It’s good for business.