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Perspective: Diversity of Thought

January 06, 2023 3:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

By Eustacia A. English, NRWA DEI Columnist

Happy New Year! I'm writing this in December, reflecting on 2022 and thinking about what's coming in 2023. As I reflect on the past year, I think of diversity, particularly the diversity of thought in the workplace. Too often, I see people holding back their thoughts and not commenting for whatever reason. As I sit here, I think of what I would like to see collectively in the workplace in the new year.

If you stop to think about it, the typical meeting or event is a haven for conformity and group thinking. According to studies, conversations at events and meetings often center on a small number of people discussing the same topics, with the talking points of the most senior individuals present. Let's try to reconsider how we handle meetings and events in 2023.

In my opinion, the best meetings and events concentrate more on the ideas that people can contribute than on the identity or stature of their sources. Allowing anonymity during brainstorming sessions is one of the best ways to do this because it allows for the evaluation of ideas to be based only on their merits rather than being limited by conformity.

In 2023, let's open the door to fresh thinking and honest dialogue. It's important to create cultures in your organizations that allow everyone to benefit from the full range of perspectives and skills. We often characterize a diverse group in terms of race and gender. However, it's important to encourage racial and gender diversity and inclusion at meetings and events, but these are just the beginning of what a truly diverse group means. 

Different people have various viewpoints and ways of thinking. Everybody has encountered various influences throughout their lives. Smart leaders know that if they want to build, grow, and retain good teams, they need to use cognitive diversity, which is a mix of different ideas and experiences. This is the only way to effectively promote diversity and an inclusive culture.

If everyone in the room is an analytical thinker, you may have a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, but you won't get the creative abrasion that comes from combining risk-takers, brainstormers, and analytical thinkers. Better outcomes occur when different ways of thinking are brought together.

Here are some techniques to help ensure your organization encompasses diverse thinking styles, even though you might not be able to spot them right away.

1.       Break down the silos. Establish interdisciplinary teams to promote varied thinking. You get better results when many different people look at a problem from many different angles. Each person's contribution is valuable, and when silos between teams are broken, great ideas result.

2.       Analyze thinking styles. I fully support using personality tests like Myers-Briggs or Insights to distinguish between various thinking styles on teams. I have completed and administered these assessments over the years, giving you opportunities to put like-minded individuals together to foster more creative thoughts. Collaborations improve because people are better aware of the value that others can bring to problem-solving.

3.       If your team lacks diversity in ideas, employ varied thinking tactics to fill in the gaps. Teams with similar thinking styles frequently arrive at the same solution quickly. When you add in varied thinking tactics, they must determine if they are examining all their options when asked to select the next best answer. Research suggests that teams approach issues from four distinct viewpoints: data and analysis, the human element, major ideas, and deadlines to meet. It's a terrific method to encourage individuals to think critically and outside their comfort zone.

4.       Encourage everyone to speak up. No matter how accurate the assessment, it won't work if leaders don't value all thinking styles and allow everyone a chance to contribute. Leaders must encourage all viewpoints and ideas to create a space where everyone can feel heard and respected. 

Diversity of thought is significant for decision-making because it introduces diverse perspectives. According to recent studies, diversity of thought can lead to higher revenues, more innovation, and lower turnover rates.

But remember, skin color and gender aren't the only measures to consider when building a diverse organization. If business leaders want to leverage the full financial benefits of creating diverse organizations, they also need to seek out diversity of thought.

Eustacia English writes the Perspective column, which examines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in resume writing and career strategy. She is a 20-year HR and talent acquisition veteran and started Resumes on Demand last year. She also writes on DEI for The Black in HR e-zine. She lives with her husband and two children in Cherry Hill, NJ. Find her online at Linkedin.com/in/eustacia

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