Some companies seek new employees who will fit into the organization’s existing culture. These companies strive to preserve the organization’s homogeneity.
Some companies try to foster diversity and seek out heterogeneous candidates. CEOs of such companies see diversity as an advantage. Paul Block of the U.S. sweetener manufacturer Merisant pointed out, “People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs.” Or, as Jonathan Broomberg of the South African insurer Discovery Health put it, diversity is “a source of creativity and innovation.”
I thought that Akin Gump placed a premium on homogeneity. As one paralegal said to me, “It’s my impression that people are hired more for what they can contribute socially than what they can contribute professionally.” The fact that that paralegal sensed she was being shunned for being different (older, more mature) suggests that she didn’t fit the homogeneous mold of the ideal Akin Gump paralegal.
Is homogeneity in an organization associated with a culture of paranoia? Perhaps. That’s my suspicion. Certainly, group theorists point out that loss of individuality of group members (through what is called dedifferentiation or homogenization) is an outcome of the (paranoid) regressive forces of a group.
Perhaps, also relevant here is the process known as groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.
When an organization places a premium on homogeneity, might it not also be promoting groupthink as an outcome?
People say: “You were a lawyer working as a paralegal in a law firm. No wonder you had problems!” Was that, in fact, the problem? Or was the problem that I was working in an organization that valued homogeneity as opposed to diversity? Or less flatteringly, was the problem that I was working in an organization that promoted paranoia?