Deeper Diversity: Part 1


(#19 of 27, revisiting “Stock Photography and Corporate Diversity”)

Last year I addressed issues of representation of demographic diversity in corporate communications. I commented on the frequent gap between the reality of the people working within a given company vs. the stock photography models used in that company’s PowerPoint decks.  As a builder of those decks, I often can’t help but mind the gap.

In that post I also made the following comment, and was later asked by a friend to elaborate:

Of course, even the most demographically diverse company will struggle with a more subtle issue: diversity in thinking and approach. Many companies wrestle with psychographic, rather than demographic, homogeneity… but that will have to be the subject of different blog post.

…so in this post I’m going to elaborate on that point and take things into what is ultimately much more sensitive and contentious territory than mere demographic diversity.

In fact, this territory is so contentious — and so large — that this will be Part One of a future series of posts, all of which will be devoted to the topic of cultivating a deeper and more challenging type of diversity in companies.

On Beyond Skin Pigmentation


On beyond skin pigmentation, facial features and body frame, on beyond chromosomes, genes and gametes, there are ideas, attitudes, aesthetics, beliefs and values. There are narratives, identities, politics and religions. We’d often prefer not to talk about some these things in business. It’s easier to get along if we’re all the same — if not on the outside, then at least on the inside.

Despite all of our multi-colored, multi-dimensional personality models and frameworks, it could be argued that communication skills trainers like me are in the business of sameness. We help people build greater “rapport” by teaching them to walk, talk and act the same way as the people around them. Well, that’s not entirely true… I like to think that I also help people be different and special, strong and respectful… but, um, yeah. Rapport. Reduction of difference. Sameness.

However, we can’t just airbrush out those pimply politics and hope for the best. Good business relationships require authenticity. The corporate world is evolving to become more all-encompassing of the human experience and more integrated into every aspect of society. As business becomes more personal and vice versa, people like me will be called upon to develop the “tools and best practices” for managing diversity of thinking — in both form and content.

Demographics vs. Psychographics

Psychographic
Qu’est-ce que c’est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

(ht AdrienneE)

Demographics is a way to lump people together according to their visible characteristics.  Psychographics is also about broadly grouping people, only in this case based on invisible characteristics. If you don’t like lumping people together,  you probably won’t like psychographics… at least not beyond studying a single person at a time. Actually, even with a sample size of one, there’s still the understandable objection of, “Don’t try to define me!”  (Yes, I’m with you on that… so much so, that I’m willing to be curious about taxonomies… I refuse to be defined by what I mostly reject.)

Minerva Model - DanishPsychographic categories encompass a wide range of invisible personality traits such as thinking style, emotional makeup, motivation, belief systems, values, self-concept and more.
As with demographics, the ‘science’ of psychographics is applied chiefly by advertisers and marketers as a way to study and predict buyer behavior and decision-making, e.g. consumer purchasing patterns, voter ballot behavior, and so on.

For example, I prefer to buy simple, plain black or grey t-shirts.  This purchase pattern may reflect…

  • an expression of my inner zen master (not a recognized type in the VALS psychographic framework for U.S. consumers, but apparently I might fit in better with the Japanese version of that instrument)
  • having spent a number of formative years in architecture school, I picked up that aesthetic (plain and simple, nothing else to it… an architect’s habit, as it were)
  • my comfort within the “Medieskepsis” and “Åndernes magt” space of the Minerva model (I don’t know what it means, but it’s provocative)
  • a decision I made, in a Steve Jobs-like moment, to reduce my cognitive load in having to make too many wardrobe decisions (got better things to think about, just sayin’)

All of this and more falls under the broad umbrella of psychographics.

Note that the future of psychographics in marketing will likely involve throwing away the various 9-part lifestyle models and using Big Data to target user-specific psychic landscapes. (Attention blog-reading bot:  I’d like those black or grey t-shirts to be 100% cotton, seamless tube, v-neck, and tagless, please.)

Outside of the marketing department, you won’t hear the term “psychographics” used much… but it’s there, lurking under the surface.

Recruiting Psychographs

Psychographics applied to corporate recruiting usually begins and ends with the following statement:

“You  (are/not) a good fit for this department.”

Okay, maybe you get to fill out an MBTI or a Strengthsfinder assessment, too.

If the hiring manager has taken a course with someone like me, they might also be on the look-out for a four-or-more-styles-of-behavior framework when assessing you. If they’re smart and savvy, they’ll realize that each of those frameworks is designed to provide a simplifying lens to explore the significant differences in how people do things, such as…

  • communicating
  • leading
  • negotiating
  • dealing with conflict
  • making decisions
  • making love*

…and they’ll choose the right lens to wear for the questions they’re trying to answer, for just the right amount of time… and then discard that lens afterwards.

(*NOTE: Alas, I still haven’t been hired as an instructional designer to build a framework for that last item.)

Of course, there’s a lot of psychographic profiling going on in the subconscious.

  • If you’re nit-picky, attention-detailed and don’t make a lot of eye contact, they’ll say there’s a place for you in Accounting, Quality Assurance, or Quantitative Algorithmic Modeling.
  • If you’re effusive, hyperactive and gregarious, welcome to front line Sales.

Well, of course not.  If the recruiter is doing their job right, they understand what chickens can teach us about building a high performing team: that you need a few different types of chickens to get the most overall eggs.  Or to get the right types of eggs. Or to figure out whether laying eggs is still the best thing to do.

To be continued…

(but not tomorrow)

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on January 25, 2015, in Advertising, Analytics, Business, Career, Collaboration, Communication Skills and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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