16/1/2017 Thinking differently: the benefits of cognitive diversity

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Thinking differently: the benefits of cognitive diversity

When we think about diversity, it is identity or demographic differences that immediately spring to
mind – factors such as race, age, gender, ethnicity or religion. Much less obvious or appreciated is
cognitive diversity – the differences in the way that people think.
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Diverse predictive models: Some people analyse a situation. They see the set of possibilities confronting them differently. When these differences are harnessed in a positive way. because it triggers more careful and creative information processing than typically occurs in homogeneous groups. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives. the benefits to an organisation can be marked.” Three key benefits of cognitive diversity were identified in the paper: 1. “Diversity’s new frontier: Diversity of thought and the future of the workforce”. Professor Katherine W. Diverse interpretations: people put things into different categories and classifications. but an insurance policy against internally generated blindness that leaves institutions exposed and out of touch. Writing in Scientific American last year. Some people like to talk through their thinking about problems. 2. “Diversity isn’t a form of political correctness. others prefer to write the solutions first and then talk. Diverse heuristics: People have different ways of generating solutions to problems. cognitive diversity matters because it is the only way to guard against group- think. http://www.” In their 2013 paper for Deloitte University Press. Others may look for the story that lies behind it. Steve Denning. 4. 3. leading to better decision making and problem solving. Anesa Diaz-Uda. has suggested that cognitive diversity can comprise four distinct dimensions. It helps guard against groupthink and expert overconfidence. Diverse perspectives: people have different ways of representing situations and problems. As Margaret Heffernan put it in her book ‘Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril’. 1. Phillips. senior vice dean at Columbia Business School said: “[Cognitive] diversity enhances creativity.16/1/2017 Thinking differently: the benefits of cognitive diversity In any organisation.uk/blog/post/2015­06­02­thinking­differently­the­benefits­of­cognitive­diversity 2/6 .” Author and management thinker.co.warrenpartners. Carmen Medina & Beth Schill explained how “diversity of thought can help organisations make better decisions and complete tasks more successfully.

But that’s not always the case. To address this issue. 2. Miller. They should also support and encourage people who think out of the box and reward their contribution to innovation and problem-solving. As the Deloitte University Press paper highlights. Burke and W.uk/blog/post/2015­06­02­thinking­differently­the­benefits­of­cognitive­diversity 3/6 . C. then.co. The key to cognitive diversity. It helps increase the scale of new insights. M. H.16/1/2017 Thinking differently: the benefits of cognitive diversity 2. most importantly. L. Promote differently: Organisations should actively promote different thinking styles within the business and factor this into career development. For example. Manage differently: Rather than stifling debate and rejecting new ideas because they threaten the status quo. is being able to harness its positive effects. Glick. It helps organisations identify employees who can best tackle their most pressing problems. new perspectives and. There’s also evidence that higher levels of cognitive diversity can sometimes result in less communication among executives. less effective decision-making and less positive organisational outcomes. one study. http://www. And that demands individuals who have the open mindedness and curiosity to embrace other points of view and be prepared to share of knowledge. challenge old thinking. cognitive diversity is not yet a priority in most organisations.warrenpartners. the paper’s authors suggest that organisations focus on three areas: Three steps for better cognitive diversity 1. that means having the right people using the right processes and – critically – an effective Board Chair with the ability to balance the group dynamics without getting bogged down in time-consuming argument. businesses must focus on creating an inclusive learning culture where people feel comfortable being themselves. found a negative correlation between cognitive diversity and effective executive decision-making. 3. leading executives to quietly address strategic issues behind the scenes rather than risk conflict with colleagues. 3. Recruit differently: It is key that the job description as well as the interview process contain the competencies and questions designed to help identify candidates who will bring fresh insight. disagreement over strongly-held preferences and beliefs can result in head-butting rather than resolution. by C. In fact. contributing ideas and learning from each other. In a Board context.

That means looking for individuals who are innovators rather than adaptors if a step change in performance is required. Media & Telecoms Transport & Infrastructure http://www.” “Having people like that in an organisation will go a long way to building real cognitive diversity.” Something else for recruiters to look out for is what Tim calls ‘individual agility’.warrenpartners. “Innovators tend to reject the common perceptions of problems and redefine them. they are less- interested in quick-fixes. and prefer to focus on long-term solutions.16/1/2017 Thinking differently: the benefits of cognitive diversity According to Warren Partner’s Tim Kemp. They’re not afraid to offer multiple solutions to problems that often require fundamental changes to the status quo. Mining & Retail Industrial Retail.uk/blog/post/2015­06­02­thinking­differently­the­benefits­of­cognitive­diversity 4/6 . seek early and easily-implemented solutions and stick to rules and consensus. self-aware and keen to learn from others. Consumer & Leisure Technology. “These are people who display a high level of curiosity.” Posted by Tim Kemp on 02 June 2015 Tim Kemp TIM’S EXPERTISE SECTOR Business Services Energy. They are comfortable with complexity and ambiguity.” “Adaptors tend to accept problems as defined. judgement and intuition. you still need effective leadership to harness its benefits. But even then. use the appropriate analytical lenses to view issues and make sound and timely decisions balancing analysis. one of the biggest contributions recruiters can make is coaxing a client out of their comfort zone in order to ensure that they don’t keep recruiting the same type of people that they already employ. Tim says.co. bring a fresh perspective to situations and can explain their thinking to others. from a homogenous candidate pool. They are also open minded. they’re ‘yes men’. In other words.

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