June 3, 2019

Lessons in Diversity: The Avengers Series

We were all impatiently waiting for the release of Avengers: End Game a few weeks ago. Forefront team members watched it with their families and we imagine many of you did as well - especially if you have special little ones in your lives! Nearly a decade of individual superhero movies and crossovers culminated in an emotional rollercoaster of a movie. Of course, the Avengers team beat Thanos, but we just didn’t know how they would do it. We also didn’t know if the entire Marvel universe would remain dead or if select characters would come back. We won’t spoil any more of the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, but at Forefront we love the Avengers series not only for the action, cinematic technology, and the unification of several story arcs but for the important lessons it teaches us about the power of diversity.

Where the Avengers team is really crushing the diversity game is the different skills each character brings to the table that leads to their ultimate success when they work together. Iron man is the brains of the operation and is quick to think through strategic plans, build new gadgets, and connect the dots between various events. Captain America is the conscience of the group. He provides moral clarity, leadership, and is a stark reminder that the Avengers have assembled to fight evil. Black Widow provides spy skills, Hulk supplies the much-needed muscle, Thor connects the team with the larger universe, and Hawkeye is reliable support. The Avengers team are the sum of their parts, and without each other, they would never be able to save the human race. Just like in the Avengers series, corporations are also the sum of their parts. Companies must source talent that has a diverse set of skills that will allow them to tackle any problem that lays ahead or ideate new products.

While the Avengers has exemplified one element of diversity well, there are areas of improvement. Hawkeye is a regular human being, Iron Man is a human with a pretty sweet robotic suit, both Captain America and Black Widow are humans enhanced by a super soldier serum, Hulk alternates between being a human and an entirely different creature altogether, and Thor is a god (he’s actually an alien, but due to his planet’s long history with Earth many consider him a god). The Avengers team is largely white, but they have varying lived experiences (origin stories) that lend to a diversity of thought and perspectives. The issue, however, is that diversity of thought is not enough in terms of diversity. It is often used as a scapegoat for not having a racially or ethnically diverse team. None of the characters look visibly different, so we’re lacking a real representation of both the world and the larger universe, and the backgrounds/experiences those folks would bring to the series.

When corporations assemble teams of people that look different, have varying experiences, and bring a wide set of skills to the table, productivity, creativity, and profitability go up! By learning from what the Avengers series does well and could improve upon in terms of diversity, you can set your organization up for success.

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