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  • Integrating Diverse, Outside Perspectives with Inside Strengths
  • Experience and knowledge are strengths that fuel business success, and their value has been emphasized in my blog posts and newsletters. My blog has also discussed research indicating that inside recruits tend to be more successful than outside hires. This reflects valuable strengths in the knowledge and experience of those hired from within. And, it applies at lower ranks in the organization as well as at executive levels such as CEO.

    It is also why my previous writing, such as my August 17 blog post, discusses the dark side of corporate boards with too many independent directors (essentially too many directors with no financial or other ties to the company on whose board they serve). These independent directors may resemble executives recruited from outside in that they can lack knowledge about or experience with the company. Consequently, having too many independent directors may sacrifice success by failing to build on strengths at the board level.

    That said, doesn't diverse perspective also play an important role? Shouldn't we be paying attention to diverse, outside views so that constant reliance on our own knowledge and experience doesn't keep the organization from responding to change? Isn't it valuable to incorporate diverse perspectives brought in by outsiders who think differently than the experienced and/or knowledgeable insiders?

    Of course, outside perspective is important. As my previous writings indicated, companies must avoid becoming excessively insular. If not aware of and responding to their external environment, companies can stagnate, fall from prominence and eventually be left behind. By keeping companies more abreast of external goings on, diverse, outside perspectives help prevent such problems.

    Nonetheless, success comes from having the right blend of outside perspective and insider know-how. So, rather than striving for a vast array of external perspectives, companies should selectively integrate relevant outside views into the existing business.

    In that sense, effectively using diverse perspective shares similarities with successful innovation. As I have written previously, successful innovation is strategic and is strengths based. Creativity certainly plays a role in generating the ideas that may spur innovation. But, success comes from selectively pursuing the right innovations, not necessarily from brainstorming the most wild ideas.

    The same holds true for tapping the benefits of outside perspective. Like the creative ideas brainstormed for innovation, the ideas originating from outside perspective play a valuable role. But, just as it is important to be strategic about which innovations to pursue, it is essential to tap diverse, outside perspective strategically and selectively.

    The key to successfully integrating diverse, outside perspective is to bring it into the organization in ways that are compatible with what is already there. That's why there can be immense benefit if outsiders understand the inside well enough to grasp where their outside ideas do and do not fit suitably. The last thing most companies need is domination by outsiders who bring in diverse perspectives that fit poorly with the organization's strengths, yet take hold because no one seems to see how ill-fitting these outside ideas actually are. Yet, this can easily be a real danger when too much outside perspective is not properly balanced with a healthy regard for what actually happens on the inside.

    Essentially, someone has to put the inside versus outside pieces together. Ideally, it is someone--or several people--who have some understanding of both inside and outside. If not, it should at least be people who can somewhat objectively think through how and why diverse outside ideas might or might not fit the organization. Or, it can entail bringing in some outsiders, but having ample collaboration with insiders to help insure a good balance between inside and outside points of view.

    In conclusion, diversity and outside perspective can have valuable benefits if tapped in a way that is good for the organization. This means that diverse, outside perspective must be strategically and selectively adopted so it fits the organization. Too much diverse, outside perspective that is not strategically harnessed can do damage. On the other hand, too little diverse, outside perspective can also hurt performance. The challenge is to get the right blend of inside and outside perspective so the organization can successfully evolve.

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