The Dangers of Monoculture Within Organisations

When I worked as a Solicitor I was in the minory in that I objected to the way that people were throwing money around like it was going out of fashion. I worked in Conveyancing and I could see that developers were “borowing off Peter to pay Paul” as they went on to invest in more housing developments before the previous ones were completed. I did not know the extent of the overborrowing at that time but it is now widely accepted that the recklessness of developers and bankers has brought this country to the brink of economic collapse.

I believe that if I had pointed out my concerns at the time they would not have been heeded. There were too many vested interests involved in the building game and by that I mean the banks, Estate Agents, Solicitor’s firms, the Construction Industry and the developers themselves. Nobody wanted to shout stop! and we are all paying for it now. They were like sheep following each other because everyone else was doing it. There was little critical thinking involved – can I afford this? what is my plan B? and that was the monoculture of the time.

But what if I had been working in an organisation which cared very much about what its people thought? What if I had been invited to contribute in a real way my concerns and anxieties about clients (whose best interests I was supposed to be protecting). If I had spoken out would others have expressed similar misgivings? Would that have made a difference to how that organisation adapted to changing circumstances in the economy? We will probably never know but I am convinced that organisations who listen to their employees (at all levels of the hierarchy) are better placed to know what is really going on.

The most advanced organisations are those who have recognised the changing demographics of their workforces and aim to recruit people from all different gender, ethnic, social and backgrounds which enables the organisation to see things from many different angles – a distinct business advantage. If you own a supermarket and employ disabled, ethnic, older, lesbian and gay workers and your competitor engages only female Irish workers you are in a better position to make a profit. You will also attract new customers from these groups. But it is not enough to employ diverse people it is also essential to interract with them, to invite their views to listen and learn from them. All of which requires an open mind. Otherwise your ideas will go stale and good staff will leave if the company is not seen to be moving with the times.