It can make a difference in an organization as it grapples with change to have a breadth of experience and perspectives among its staff and leaders. But too often, organizations unwittingly push out the people with different perspectives and thinking styles, favoring those with a familiar background, mental makeup, and so on.
It’s a mistake. It is a direct equivalent of weakening the gene pool of the organization. In evolutionary genetics, the species’ strength against changing ecologies comes from the size of its gene pool. Over-specialization is risky when the ecology changes. Koalas are particularly adorable creatures, and loved by many, but they have to live where there are Eucalyptus trees. They are adapted, narrowly, to a diet mainly of eucalyptus. They are hyper-specialized. They cannot get down from that tree and climb a different species of tree, and survive.
So look around you. That guy that seems just plain weird may mean strength as your organization faces change. He may add variability and adaptability to your organization’s DNA. So might that woman hired from a totally different sector, who you think can’t know “enough about this business.” She may be just who you need when a shift in circumstances happens.
When change comes, don’t be all koalas. You’d better be able to feed on something other than just eucalyptus. It may not be available to you.
Image: TravOC, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution License