The events of 2020 from a cybersecurity perspective have brought to light the significance of diversity for businesses of all sizes. Facing a more diverse range of challenges than most will have experienced before required an equally diverse range of coping mechanisms and responses to navigate accelerated digital transitions. The move to remote working placed strain on communications, data sharing, client management and – underpinning it all – security. Yet, while many are all too aware of the diversity of reactions needed, how much emphasis was equally placed on instilling diversity into the actual decision-making process?
In theory, the more varied the problems, the more varied the input should be, to ensure covering of all bases. A recent study of more than 200 teams over a two-year period found that a more inclusive environment reaps better decisions up to 87% of the time. More broadly, a 2018 McKinsey study of 1,000 companies across 12 countries found that businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience improved profitability. Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural diversity resulted in a 33 percent increase in performance.
However, as recently as 2019, only 24% of the entire cybersecurity workforce were women. A clear and rectifiable phase of inclusion clearly isn’t being adopted, and it begs the question as to whether companies have secured themselves against the trials of this year as well as they think they have.
Too many cooks don’t always spoil the broth
Firm evidence and statistics to confirm this will no doubt become available over the coming months and years. But all historical studies allude to an underrepresented – and therefore underprepared – decision-making unit combating the impacts of COVID-19.
It potentially derives from the idea of technology decisions being intrinsically linked to innovation, which is often perceived as a solo pursuit. Notions of ‘too many cooks’ are compounded by success stories of the Apples of this world.
Innovation is also linked to ideas of pace. The fewer the people involved, the quicker decisions can be enacted. And there is of course some truth to that in practical terms.
So, as companies were suddenly faced with an instantaneous need to make decisions around digital progression – and indeed innovation as they looked to achieve more with less – many will have reverted to type and stuck to their small nexus of decision-making units.
However, a further concern with this plan of action was brought to light by Kaspersky via a recent report into innovation, which found that diversity was even more important than the empowerment of individuals when it comes to fostering entrepreneurship and out-of-the-box thinking.
We perhaps shouldn’t go as far as saying that the correlation between innovation, speed and successful decision-making has been debunked. But certainly, more attention needs to be paid towards finding a balance. Yes, it might take longer to attain input from a more varied spread of people, but if you’re more likely to elevate, improve and secure your business as a consequence, then surely that’s a price worth paying under almost any circumstances.
Make diversity your default
The above balance can be triggered not just through seeking out diversity at critical times, but by making diversity a part of the core company culture – both in decision-making positions and across the wider organisation. Teams that already have such a spread of ideas have been found to make decisions twice as fast and deliver better results by up to 60%, as evidence that ‘more’ doesn’t mean ‘worse’ or ‘slower’.
As part of this cultural shift, organisations should also seek heightened agility in how they come to make decisions in either traditional or unprecedented times. This means that even in heightened stress situations, such as the ones we’ve experienced this year, businesses may need to shrink the extent of input to speed up the process. However, even that shrunk model will still include a greater diversity of personnel, backgrounds and input to achieve optimum results.
Rather than making concerted efforts to include a wider array of inputs come decision time, which may become forced, disjointed, conflicting and time-consuming, business leaders will be leveraging a bedrock of diverse-yet-unified thinking. This bedrock should reflect a wider consideration of possibilities, factors, influences and consequences.
By creating that culture as your new default setting, you’ll essentially be making the same quick, innovative and potent decisions you always strived for, with the effectiveness of a longer-term committee.
Set the security chain in motion
Bringing the conversation back to cybersecurity, this stands out as a core component at the end of a more efficient, inclusive and high-performance chain.
This chain begins with a more diverse and complete culture, which yields an equally comprehensive idea base when it comes to key decision-making. And at a time of digital transformation – with or without lockdown – security is one of those main priorities for businesses.
Excuses of reduced decision speeds, poorer decision effectiveness or stifling of innovation have been quashed. And based on that evidence, the smart money is on future studies revealing that those with a more diverse team have stayed more productive and secure during COVID-19 as well.
It sounds almost Darwinian, but we’ll discover these results by proxy of those businesses thriving in the coming years as a result of their already-established culture of diversity. For the rest now realising their mistake, the best time to rectify it and set their own chains in motion, is now.
Contributed by Claire Hatcher, global head of fraud prevention solutions at Kaspersky