The approach some people have to the issue of social diversity is rather simplistic. Their idea of “adding diversity” to a software team is usually limited to attracting more women. It is an approach based on stereotypes about gender differences, and, from a scientific perspective, it is completely outdated (see: “Out with the pink and blue: Don’t foster the gender divide” – NewScientist).
It has been noted by management experts and complexity scholars that a person’s performance is determined, to a large extent, by the system in which he is set to work. And social network analysis has revealed that this performance also depends on the person’s connectivity with other people in the social network (see: The Hidden Power of Social Networks – Cross/Parker).
This means that, when you hire a new person, one of the most important things to watch out for is how this person will connect to other people in the organization. Preferably, you want these connections to be of a different kind than the connections the existing team members have been able to establish, because diversity in connectivity has the highest impact on competence and performance in your team. Whether the person is male, female, dark, white, single, married, big, or tall, is probably irrelevant.
This means, when hiring a new team member, right after checking for competence, you should check for a person’s connection-making capabilities. For example, by checking what kind of connections she made in her previous job; the kind of connections she prefers in her social life; the sources she uses to increase her knowledge; the way she approaches the receptionist, the HR manager, and other people in your organization; and the way this person can get along with the team she is likely to join. That means you check this stuff before you sign the contract, because these are all indicators of the real diversity the person will add to your team.
Diversity is not about a person’s genes. It’s about a person’s mind and her connections.