Would You Like A Bit More Diversity?
Should the priority be diversity or uniformity when recruiting?
Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and Slide, participated in one of the courses recently given by Peter Thiel to students of the Computer Science Department of Stanford University (see Blake Masters’ blog for more details).
Levchin shared his views on the need for start-ups to recruit employees who are similar:
“The notion that diversity in an early team is important or good is completely wrong. There are a few reasons for this. The most salient is that, as a startup, you’re underfunded and undermanned. It’s a big disadvantage. Speed is your only weapon. So how do you move fast? If you’re alone, you just work really hard and hope it’s enough. Since it often isn’t, people form teams.
But in a team, an n-squared communications problem emerges. In a five-person team, there are something like 25 pairwise relationships to manage and communications to maintain. The more diverse the early group, the harder it is for people to find common ground.”
What is true for a start-up isn’t valid, in my opinion, for a marketing and/or communications department. In these functions, it is necessary to hire different people in order to maximize the company’s understanding of its target audience.
As a matter of fact, the effectiveness of marketing/communications strategies and tactics largely depends on emotional factors. This is why empathy is such an essential quality among practitioners of both these disciplines. Now it’s easier to have empathy for people or target audiences who are similar to you than for those who are extremely different from you. Therefore, the more a company’s target audience is diverse, the more its marketing and communications teams should be a motley crew.
If you do not appreciate otherness, get a new job.