The importance of thought diversity is something that I’ve touched on a number of times on this blog over the years. I specifically focus on thought diversity rather than the identity based version as it is usually that which is important.
Indeed, Scott Page has highlighted four distinct rules that he believe are crucial to gaining from thought diversity.
- The problem needs to be tough enough that no single person will always come up with a solution
- The team members need to have some intelligence in the general area of the problem
- The team members need to be able to incrementally improve solutions to the problem
- The team needs to be large enough to have a genuinely diverse talent pool
A recent paper from the Institute for Corporate Productivity highlights the importance of being authentic when you attempt to implement such diversity within your organization.
It found that the lowest performing organizations in its survey were 2.5 times more likely to pursue diversity as a branding opportunity.
What’s more, the best performing companies were able to hone in on the business benefits of having greater thought diversity. This is often challenging, but a MIT study from last year proved how beneficial thought diversity was to the performance of the organization.
The report then highlights the importance of tapping into this diversity of ideas and insights in a tangible way. It’s no use having the range of perspectives if they aren’t being utilized for innovations in some way.
This is where good leadership comes in, with the report highlighting the importance of leaders first being aware of differences, and then bridging gaps between groups to ensure effective collaboration.
It’s an approach that chimes with a recent report from Deloitte on the topic. The report outlines five things organizations can do to improve the thought diversity.
- Hire unconventional people – During recruitment, there is a tendancy to hire people that are just like us. Research has shown that recruiting managers tend to like people that reflect them, which is not great for diversity of thought.
- Understand the talents people have – One suspects that most employees are akin to icebergs, with a great many of their talents and abilities unknown and unutilised in the workplace. A crucial part of having a diverse workplace is actually knowing what you have.
- Solicit feedback – I’ve written a lot recently on the importance of feedback, and managers need to do all they can to encourage it. It’s no use having diverse opinions if people are too afraid to share them.
- Utilise reverse mentoring – Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of this advice, I’m more inclined to think that encouraging a supportive culture in whatever way is the best approach. Help and advice should flow up, down and across the organisation.
- Be open to new ideas – The employees within your organisation are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas and insights. A corporate culture that is open to ideas will inevitably look to those outside the organisation as well as those inside. Removing the not invented here culture and opening oneself up to ideas from all corners is a crucial part of being diverse.
There is clearly still work to be done in fostering greater thought diversity in our organizations, but the i4cp report does at least highlight how companies are obtaining a competitive advantage from doing so.
That prompt will hopefully be enough to encourage others to start to follow suit.