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What makes you you? Probably too many things to count.

Our identities are complex. Put groups of people together and you’ll find all sorts of variety in what we are and what we do. In fact, scientists say that this variation between and within populations is exactly what helped humans evolve biologically and socially.

We call the variation diversity. And there’s a lot more to diversity than initially meets the eye.

One way to organize all the ways we are diverse is to consider two buckets that hold ‘inherent’ and ‘acquired’ dimensions of diversity.

Inherent diversity is the range of traits that you were born with, happened to you and by which you are conditioned. They include the typical things we think of as identity such as gender, age, race, physical ability and sexuality.

Acquired diversity “is not who you are but how you act as a result of what you’ve experienced or learned”. It relates to personal experiences that help shape our world view and, alongside inherent diversity, contributes to the variety of perspectives that make diversity powerful.

Dimensions of inherent diversity include:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability, including physical, sensory, learning, mental health and chronic illness
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Cognitive processes determined by how we’re neurologically wired – the way we think and process information

Dimensions of acquired diversity include:

  • Cultural fluency – understanding different cultures and perspectives
  • Global experience and worldview
  • Tech savviness
  • Languages spoken
  • Cross-functional knowledge
  • Learning about inequality leading to “gender smarts” or being “woke”
  • Types of institutions worked or educated in
  • Friendships and relationships that grant us a variety of perspectives – growing up with a gay sibling, for example
  • Cognitive processes determined by our experiences – drawing on any of the above, for example

.     .     .

🚀 A winning combination

These two buckets aren’t a matter of splitting hairs. It’s the way top researchers scrutinize teams for whether they have the diversity of thought for success.

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) indicates that businesses need a combination of both inherent and behavioral diversity to maximize innovation and business performance.

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