The right person for the job isn’t always who we think it is. We can be conditioned through experience, tradition and opinion to prioritize certain characteristics at the expense of others. A skillset that looks right to us on paper might not be complemented by the right blend of social abilities needed by our team. Or an employee we view as having high potential can be unexpectedly outshined in a new setting.

Unmasking unique talent

Maintaining the agility and sustainability of an organization requires us to look beyond our assumptions and identify unrecognized skills.

Some recent studies have underscored the ways in which our biases lead us to reject the individual strengths needed to produce the best results. For instance, the Foldit experiment, described in the 2016 volume “Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future,” showed us the ways in which a cloud-based community of gamers was unexpectedly more effective in solving a protein-folding problem than a team of biochemists. But even if this is a radical example of a new strategy for unmasking hidden talent, its lessons shouldn’t be overlooked. Maintaining the agility and sustainability of an organization requires us to look beyond our assumptions and identify unrecognized skills.

Making the right moves

This is why diversity and inclusion initiatives sit at the heart of an organization’s ability to remain competitive and to move with change. Research has shown that diversity programs play a critical role in exploring the unique abilities of the workforce and aligning individual strengths with new and evolving roles. The current climate of animosity in our political and social discourse comes at a bad time for business. Diversity programs must work to counter these divisions while promoting authentic appreciation for those with whom we share our work day. It’s only then that our talents can be understood and developed for the mutual benefit of the individual and the organization.

Seemingly now more than ever, we need to exchange ideas on how to be responsive to diversity in our workplace and drive innovation and growth. It’s a conversation we need to have and an opportunity not to be missed.