In the world of investment we talk a lot about diversification. Harry Markowitz is quoted as having said ‘diversification is the only free lunch in investing’ and we certainly have an extensive range of different types of assets to choose from, in order to build that breadth in portfolios.
Similarly, in the past few years there has been a growing recognition for the need of great diversity within the workforce – be that across gender, ethnicity or cognitively. Conceptually there are parallels to both investing and employment – if you can combine a range of investments that perform well/poorly at different times then in aggregate you should get a smoother return; likewise, if you have a broader opportunity set of thinking and ideas, then employers should benefit from greater innovation and provide better challenge to the status quo.
The reason for this introduction is that I recently experienced something very different in my life; my first exposure to political campaigning and the media that surrounds it. The thing that struck me was my experience was a tiny glimpse of what goes on day in, day out and yet I had never before seen the ‘behind the scenes’ and I’m sure I am far from alone in this. I reflected on how many industries up and down the country/world were going about their way of doing things – each applying their own tried and tested processes and achieving outcomes; some successful, others less so.
To give you some sense of what I’m referring to, I was asked to be interviewed by BBC regional radio. It is not really my thing but as a number of my colleagues were braving up to TV cameras, I thought it was the least I could do. So, having been put in the frame for the interviews by our group’s PR person, I found myself contacted by the scheduler who told me that I had to be free from 8am until 9am and then she emailed me the schedule – the first interview at 8.08, I then had a gap until 8.30 and thereafter I would be speaking with different regions across the country, each at 8 minute intervals – some were live; others would be build into a pre-recorded programme aired later in the day.
Dutifully, at their allotted time, the phone would ring and I would find myself speaking to the producer who would give a brief run down about what would happen and then hand over to the presenter. The process was so slick, so professional – the antithesis of my interview – and I marvelled that this was just another day for them, they would do this probably hundreds of times a day.
So returning to my original theme of diversity/diversification – perhaps it’s a bit tenuous, but I do wonder whether there is the potential to drive greater efficiency and innovation by skill sharing across sectors – bringing people in from completely different walks of life to enhance that pool of skills. Obviously this is nothing new – I recall there being a drive among teaching to encourage people from industry to re-train to teach. Or perhaps we could just ‘borrow’ the skill-sets by rotating individuals for a period of time.