We live in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual world. Most likely, the product or service that you are thinking about will address customer segments that include both men and women of different age groups, backgrounds and geographical locations.
Yet, in our 2013 global markets, there are startups that comprise all men or all women. Or all company employees come from one distinct segment (be that age, race, or background). What’s remarkable is that these founders are creating products for various customer segments, but don’t have a representation of said segments integrated into their product development and evaluation process.
In the Taoist cosmology, everything has both yin-yang (dark-light) elements. They are two sides of the same coin: one cannot exists without the other. Taoists favor duality over contradictions. So feminine and masculine, stillness and movement, rise and fall, advance and retreat, hardness and softness, exist as complements rather than contradictions.
The yin-yang symbol comprises two equal parts that are linked inside one circle. Each also possess a part of the other. In the yin half, there’s a white yang dot; and in the yang half, there’s a black yin dot. The yin-yan energies are cyclical in nature; as one ebbs, the other flows. As one expands, the other contracts—always connected and moving inside this larger circle, which embraces both in unity.
What lessons about duality that founders can apply to startups?
Think of your venture as this circle, inside which there are both yin-yang elements.
- A company with all men shall miss a woman’s sensibility and perspective, and vice versa. Hire both men and women.
- The 17th century French scholar Henri Estienne wrote, “If youth only knew, if age only could.” Often, in a startup filled with 20-somethings , you’re heavy on energy and enthusiasm, and light on experience and wisdom. A Millennial does not have a Boomer’s life experience. On numerous occasions, young founders have told me, “We wished we had known better and hired a seasoned CFO / Bus Dev VP / Marketing VP instead of trying to wing it ourselves.” Don’t discount ‘old’ folks.
A venture with 40-somethings will have abundant wisdom and experience, but may lack the wide-eyed exuberance of youths who are still unscathed by life’s experiences, and still ask the question, ‘Why?’ A Boomer does not have the bottomless energy of a Millennial. Just this week, a very successful career consultant told me that she was very glad she had hired a 30-year old to help her with marketing because of his “Millennial perspective and gung-ho energy.” Don’t discount ‘young things.’ Hire young, not so young, and old.
- We humans are like birds of a feather; we flock together. It is important to celebrate one’s sameness. It is also important to step out of our comfort zone and collaborate with individuals of different sensibilities, skills, talents, and backgrounds. Diversity enriches not only your company culture; it also enriches the product that you’re creating. Your customers will benefit, and in return, you’ll benefit.
© 2013-2015 My-Tien Vo