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Diversity of Thought: An Introduction

What does diversity of thought mean, how do we encourage it and how can it positively impact your business?

We were delighted to be invited to speak at a client’s Diversity Month in March. Built around International Women’s Day there was a wide range of events looking at diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and people’s leadership journeys.

We were invited for the finale event: Diversity of Thought

The idea behind this event was simple: how do we encourage people to think of diversity not just in terms of ethical and fair focus in recruitment and development, but also as a personal focus on achieving greater innovation and results?

When people quote studies showing that teams and business boards with greater diversity make more money or achieve better results, this is not some magical effect of having more women or different ethnicities involved: it is the result of different ways of thinking.

Why is Diversity Good?

Based on our gender, ethnicity, genetics, upbringing, education and so many other factors, our brains are wired in different ways. You know when you’re working with someone and you wonder how on earth they have come to x conclusion or gone about that task in x way – you never would have thought or done it that way (and you probably believe your way is better!)

That’s the thing with different brain patterns: we like our own because we only know our own ways of thinking and working. Everyone who thinks differently – more often than not we think of as wrong, misguided or weird. Yet there are great benefits to challenging our comfortable ways of working: we might find a better way.

We can harness these benefits by challenging ourselves to think differently, engaging people we would not usually go to for advice and encouraging disagreement. Let’s face it, it is easier to work with people who think like we do, agree with us, come up with similar ideas and we achieve consensus far quicker.

But what if consensus was not the goal? What if achieving something brilliant were the goal – and we might not always agree but we could make decisions and take concerns into account? Trying new things, making mistakes, learning fast and trying again. If you want to achieve something different then try thinking differently and engaging with different people.

Challenging your Thinking

One of the greatest ways to find new ideas for yourself is to simply notice and increase your awareness of the way you do something. Take something that comes up a lot in your day job, maybe the way you run meetings, make decisions or solve problems.

You will not usually take time to think about how you do that particular thing, because you do it all the time, maybe many times per day. But taking time to stop and consider the way you do something can help you challenge that approach and consider other approaches. Try out these questions as you consider your way of working:

Which Questions Do You Find Helpful?

How would someone more extroverted than me go about this? Someone who relied on thinking out loud and involving other people?

How would someone more introverted than me go about this? Someone who took time to process their thoughts alone and then came to a conclusion?

What would a more logical, structured, fact-based approach look like?

What would a more intuitive, spontaneous, gut-feel-based approach look like?

As you consider how other people might go about your task, you will most likely find you don’t like most of the ideas that come up, but look out for the golden nugget of an idea: something you could tweak in your approach that might give you a better outcome.

In our next instalment on this subject we look at how you can engage others who have different ways of thinking, and embrace the disagreement that will follow, to achieve better results.