Value of diversity in business

One of the primary reasons why I chose to come to IESE is the diversity of the students that make up this program (60 countries represented on one campus!!). While I’ve been learning hell of a lot about new people, new cities and new cultures, I hadn’t so much experienced the value of professional diversity in class, except in team meetings of course since there is no pressure/ competition to steal the participation limelight. Just to put things into perspective – You have about 30 seconds to make an argument based on your own previous professional experience and in relevance to the previous comment made by a classmate, while the professor is standing right in front of your face (sometimes even literally barking at you) and 71 other students are waiting to either hear a “COW” comment from you or are brewing their own participation one liner. Under such high pressure circumstances, it’s difficult to really add value to the class from your work previous work experience.

People come from very diverse professional backgrounds such as ship navigation to playing national level sport. There have been instances when people have shared experiences from their lives and it has been quite relevant to the case being discussed. These contributions despite being valuable have been scattered across cases/ courses and I have never seen real collaboration of ideas to generate a comprehensive solution within a single business case. But today, for the very first time, I  truly experienced the value of diversity in the classroom during the Operations Management case discussion. The case was about a property insurance company trying to streamline operations to improve branch profitability. Being an operations class, the engineers were going bonkers over the process design, prioritisation of activities, statistical variances and billion other parameters that would help make the system more efficient and service friendly.

While we were drowning ourselves in operational nitty gritties of the case, Raffy, the ex investment banker pointed out that the insurance pricing might have an impact on the operations. At that moment, despite understanding his comment, I realised that this dimension of the case would not have been so intuitive for me simply because I am an operations person and I always look at problems first from an operational perspective before exploring other areas, if forced to do so. This opened up a whole new dimension to solving this problem and it was well acknowledged by the professor. Of course, the professor didn’t dwell deeper in this direction since it was an ops class but it made me clearly see the value of having people from diverse backgrounds not just in the MBA program, also in future professional teams to have a very holistic approach to solving business problems.

P.S – The reason I think I’ve failed to see this in the past is because unlike in the past, today, the engineering and baking collaboration was on a quantitative plane.


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