In 1991, University of Michigan researchers Taylor H. Cox and Stacy Blake published a groarticle titled, “Managing Cultural Diversity: Implications for Organizational Competitiveness.” At the time of its publication, Cox and Blake’s article was among the first to make explicit the link between managing diversity and organizational competitiveness.
The article outlines six arguments for how managing diversity can provide a competitive advantage to organizations: cost, resource acquisition, marketing, creativity, problem-solving, and system flexibility. Although their research is now 25 years old, the important insights provided by Cox and Blake are still worth revisiting today.
Cost Argument: As diversity in the workplace increases, organizations that actively support the integration of new workers will have a cost advantage over organizations that fail to support diversity effectively.
Resource Acquisition Argument: Organizations with a good reputation for supporting diversity are in the best position to attract the most talented workers, particularly among women and ethnic minorities.
Marketing Argument: Actively supporting a diverse workforce can help organizations to develop the insight and cultural competency necessary to succeed in the global marketplace, and to more effectively reach subpopulations within the domestic marketplace.
Creativity Argument: Encouraging and supporting diverse perspectives in the workplace can help organizations to challenge out-of-date norms and increase the level of creative thinking.
Problem-Solving Argument: Inviting a wider range of perspectives to the table for problem-solving discussions can lead to more thorough critical analysis and result in better decision making.
System Flexibility Argument: Organizations that support diversity tend to be more fluid and flexible, and are usually able to respond to environmental changes more efficiently and effectively than less fluid organizational cultures.