How Diversity of Thought Makes A Difference

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May 23, 2016

“A diverse team that does not see the value of the diverse perspectives might as well not be diverse.”

— Mark Gist
director of industrial participation and offsets
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

Being the head of your management board requires many responsibilities. The biggest being the “beekeeper.” The one who tames all the daily chaos to keep the front-end of business looking neat. While this is a handful in itself, maintaining or creating diversity of thought can’t come last. Energizing innovation, eliminating conflict and breaking groupthink mustn’t be ‘tack-on’ projects.

“…you might not think we’re at the ‘right’ stage to think about diversity. Maybe we should be focusing on getting the manpower we need to build a good product, securing our next round of funding, or generating more revenue. The fundamental presumption that motivates that mentality is that diversity is an afterthought; it’s ‘nice’ to have when you have the time for it. But the fact is, workplace diversity needs to be a priority from day one.”

— Nisha Dwivedi
success manager and diversity team lead

THOUGHT DIVERSITY REFERAmplitude isn’t the only company struggling with the ‘not enough time’ factor; 41% of Fortune 1000 respondents specified they’re “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives. Take inward thinking and reverse it. Get ahead of your goals by taking this two-step process in thought diversity, and watch your team kill it in project innovation, productivity and culture.


Understand your team as individuals

It takes looking inward to get an external view of things. Understanding ourselves helps us to work better with someone else,  and once you have a grasp of what you value and how you work, we must then learn about others. When we understand our way of working, in addition to the people we are working with, it will create a higher level of thinking to achieve those big projects. Be aware that the teams you created on day one could be the complete opposite of what they need to be, stymieing the completion of assignments.

For example, time management can mean everything to Suzie, but is the last thing on Javier’s mind. Suzie thinks Javier is disrespectful to company and co-worker time when he is slow to respond to memos and finishing projects. From Javier’s perspective, he’s doing everyone a favor by paying attention to detail instead of rushing out the products. This doesn’t necessarily mean either employee is wrong. This indicates two sets of values likely to bump heads because of misinterpretations.

As a manager you see these two employees complaining about one another’s carelessness all the time. What can you do about this?

Management tip: Assess your employees and discover where their values are. We all come from different walks of life, which makes it difficult for us to understand one another if we’re not on the same brain wave. Asking your employees what their strongest values are, and swapping notes gives everyone a better understanding of how each person is wired.

Hiring the unconventional employee

Now that you’ve created the perfect concoction of teams, don’t screw it up for yourself. Keep moving forward by bringing this diversity of thought into your hiring process. Think of the teams you’ve built thus far and what they could use to make them even better. Maybe your creative team has it all, but they’re lacking that sharp analytical edge the creative eye is blind to.

University of Michigan economist, Scott Page, wrote a book, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, discussing how hires don’t necessarily need to be determined based on test scores. His example:

You’ve just interviewed three candidates; Jeff, Rose and Spencer. When you asked all three the same 10 questions, Jeff answered 7 right, Rose 6 and Spencer 5. You’re inclined to hire Jeff and Rose by default, but notice that Spencer correctly answered the questions the other two missed.

In this case, Spencer is the unconventional character you need to fill the gap your creative team is missing. Now you can look at your team as less of a group of employees, and more like a working, breathing, thinking puzzle solver.

These new employees who are brought into the system to supplement your already amazing crew can help break any groupthink and bring forth an angle the team didn’t  previously consider.

Management tip: Encourage brainstorming among teams when new hires are successfully onboarded to see what kind of fresh ideas they have. Don’t offer any criticism during these brainstorming sessions as this can hamper their future willingness to contribute ideas. Eliminate the possibility of new hires conforming to all the “ways of the organization” in order to fully welcome that fresh angle you’re looking for.

Don’t get strung out on long processes. All it takes are these two core steps to grasp the diversity of thought your company really needs. Implementing your diversity of thought initiatives started yesterday, catch up and you won’t be disappointed by the results.

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