Why groupthink is bad for business
Sumeet Singh Patpatia has been interested in diversity issues for a long time. For twelve years, he’s been organising Turban Day in Oslo. Its goal is to make Norway the best country in the world to be different in.

Why groupthink is bad for business

His aim is to make his newly created role obsolete, and to make Schibsted the world’s best workplace when it comes to being different. Sumeet Singh Patpatia is Schibsted’s Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

“When I grew up, I was one of only three kids with dark skin in the whole of my preschool. I was always different, and I lived in two different worlds: the Norwegian one outside my home and the one inside my family, and I had to learn how to navigate both.”

It’s this experience that led Sumeet Singh Patpatia to his role as Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Schibsted. By living in those two separate worlds, he learned early on that there were advantages to understanding other groups, though up to now his interest in overcoming differences had been something he did in his own time. In his professional life he worked on digital transformation and business development.

“I didn’t know you could do it as a job! I’ve been interested in these issues since I was a teenager, but only in my spare time.”

Crucial for the business

The reason why he can now bring this interest into his professional life is the growing insight in Schibsted that we need to act proactively to achieve a more diverse workforce – and that we’ll lose our competitive edge if we don’t. It’s crucial for attracting the best talents, for developing products and for innovation.

“Many companies have a challenge in reflecting the population. If we always recruit people who are like ourselves, we’ll have a problem; we’ll miss out on a lot of the talent out there”, says Sumeet, who also stresses the importance of drawing on different perspectives in product development.

“If you want to innovate and enter new markets, you need to hear multiple perspectives. Groupthink can be bad for business.”

But he also thinks it’s easy to lose sight of diversity from the traditional perspective when what really matters is inclusion, and that many people today feel excluded even though outwardly they seem to belong to the group of people they work with.

“Being excluded hurts. Some research show that social and physical pain has the same effect on our brains.”

Raising awareness and providing tools

In practical terms, Sumeet’s role is to ensure that Schibsted has diversity competency and diversity maturity, and that these are connected to inclusion and belonging. In the first phase he will analyse what that looks like by talking to many people throughout the organisation. The next step is to devise a plan which he already knows will include training for managers.

“It’s about raising awareness, but also about providing managers with tangible tools. As a manager, how comfortable are you meeting someone who is blind, has a different sexual orientation from you or who wears a turban? Do you dare to be curious and try to understand what it means? That’s where my role comes in.”

Hi also thinks that in Schibsted today there is a lot of diversity which isn’t utilized to the fullest.

“Potentially there is a lot of value in giving this diversity a voice. Thus, it is not just about recruiting diversity, but more importantly including diversity. Including all.”

As a Sikh, Sumeet wears a turban. It also plays a role in the project he’s most proud of. For twelve years now he’s been one of the organisers of the Norwegian Turban Day in Oslo, an international event staged in April every year to raise awareness of Sikhs and of the turban as part of their culture and religion. The Oslo event’s goal is to make Norway the world’s best country to be different in and the general public is invited to wear a turban for a day. Sumeet refers to it as a roundabout way of “mimicking” another culture, but he thinks it has a lot of value for understanding others. And he now sees that the Turban Day project succeeded in that; in a recent survey on the level of acceptance of various symbols in Norway, the turban ranked a joint third with the Christian cross.

Now he’s committed to making the Schibsted project the one he’ll be most proud of: “We’re going to make sure that you and I and everyone can bring our whole selves to the workplace.”

Ann Axelsson

Ann Axelsson
Senior Product Manager, Strategic Communications
Years in Schibsted: 23