Why a more diverse workplace is also a more talented one

Raw talent doesn't just exist in ivy league business schools, says superstar business consultant Ram Charan.

Ram Charan: A leader who does not get the talent no matter where it comes from is not likely to succeed. 

Talent exists beyond the Ivy schools. Talent exists in “lower” schools. Talent exists in people who have never gone to school.

Whether you’re a woman, whether you’re some other ethnicity, it’s the talent we ought to look into. 

So my first item is to look into raw talent. 

So we say there is talent in diverse people. Age has nothing to do with it. A 90-year-old can do the algorithmic planning today from India, so no discrimination of age either. You can be young, you can be very senior. If you have energy, great.

Now we ask the question: why these are not progressing fast enough? 

First I want to tell you about the boards. If you have a hundred men, not all the hundred are going to be on the boards. They’re going to be a small percentage. Why? 

Because there are certain characteristics in these people that make them good board members. 

Now, there could be some mistakes, but the fact is only a few of the hundred are going to be on the boards, and they develop certain kind of skills, so I want to tell you what those skills are. And if you don’t have those skills you’re not going to get there. 

The first and foremost skill of a board member is to be able to ask the right questions. Most people don’t know how to ask the right questions. 

Number two is to be able to understand the financial side of the business. Business acumen is mandatory. To be able to read in a proper way the balance sheet, the P&L, the competitions, the trends, it’s a special skill how to diagnose them to the root. If you don’t have it you’re not going to succeed. 

Women succeed to the board who have these skills, and they become chairpersons of the audit committee. They are in high demand. This is the route. 

And then obviously you have to have leadership skills and poise doing that. 

So we need to create these training programs inside over time, get these people to run a profit and loss statement, company product line, country as soon as possible and give them coaching. Once they get to P&L and succeed they will be eligible to move up very fast. We are not doing that. 

Search for raw talent and train them separately, but on those items. 

Because you have to work a little bit more to find this talent that can be molded. In the men’s side it’s been going on for decades, but again, it’s going to be very few out of a lot of people who are going to get there.

The talent is in shortage. Look for the talent. Seek the talent, and develop the talent.

Ram Charan has spent his working life as a business mentor and consultant to CEOs of global companies. He's the guy that Coca-Cola, KLM, GE, and Bank of America (just to name a few) call when they need help. And he's a firm believer in a diverse workplace. If a 90-year-old can do the job the best, then why not hire them? Raw talent doesn't just exist in ivy league business schools, he says, and that applies to the whole company... from the work floor to the boardroom. Ram's latest book is Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First , and he is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

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Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.