Thought Diversity: A New Way to Hire, Manage and Reward

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May 2, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. We’re reposting each of the top 25 articles between now and January 2nd. This is No. 11 of 2016. You can find the complete list here.

When you think of effective workplace diversity, you probably think of people of different genders, races, and cultures putting their diverse backgrounds to good use. You may also think about legal requirements and ensuring compliance.

These thoughts are correct, but there’s another way to think about diversity.

There’s a growing trend when it comes to diversity at work, and it’s called “thought diversity.” Employees all have unique backgrounds, and those backgrounds impact the way they think.

Having a work environment with a diverse collection of thinkers will help your company push the envelope and grow in ways it normally wouldn’t. According to a study by consulting and professional services company Deloitte, cultivating “diversity of thought” at your business can boost innovation and creative problem-solving.

There are many different types of thinkers. Some people are creative, some are analytical, some are relaxed, and some are strategists. By putting together a group of people who “think” differently, Deloitte believes companies can stimulate creativity, spur insight, and increase efficiency.

Deloitte’s study suggests thought diversity can benefit an organization by reducing groupthink, increasing the scale of new insights, and identifying the right employees who can best tackle their most pressing problems. According to Deloitte, “The implication of this new frontier in diversity is that leaders and organizations must let go of the idea that there is one right way and instead focus on creating a learning culture where people feel accepted, are comfortable contributing ideas, and actively seek to learn from each other.”

To implement thought diversity in your workforce, there are three steps Deloitte recommends managers follow:

1. Hire Differently

If the candidate is unconventional, hire them. Sometimes bending your hiring parameters, and allowing for more flexibility, will bring in a candidate you didn’t think would fit.

For example, say you interviewed three candidates; Gary, Jen, and Mark. They were all asked the same eight questions; Mark got six right, Jen five, and Gary four. Most people would lean towards hiring Mark or Jen. But what if when you look at the answers, you see Gary actually answered all the questions correctly that Mark and Jen missed?

The Difference Book CoverUniversity of Michigan economist Scott Page uses a similar scenario in his book, The Difference, to show how hiring managers could change their practices to hire with thought diversity in mind. Page found most organizations would hire the candidates with the highest scores, but the smarter move may be the one who was able to answer the questions no one else could. According to Page, this suggests the candidate brings a different way of thinking to the table.

2. Manage Differently

Manage like you’ve never managed before. At most organizations, when a group meets to come to a decision it is usually approached by trying to come to a consensus. However, Deloitte suggests it’s the approach of going into the meeting looking for a consensus to be the end goal that ends up stifling thought diversity. Instead, a conflict which is task-focused should be encouraged. According to Deloitte, this can push team members to new levels of creativity and productivity. In the end, you want your entire team to feel accepted and encouraged to share their opinions.

3. Promote Differently

Encourage and reward employees in a whole new way. According to Deloitte, to retain and advance cognitively diverse talent, organizations should:

…enact sponsorship programs directed at individuals who represent different thinking styles. Moving to a team-based performance evaluation framework can allow an organization to create and foster a culture of inclusion that empowers its people, spurs collaboration, and inspires more innovation.

Having employees who think in diverse ways makes sense, much like having employees with diverse backgrounds. More organizations are recognizing the benefits of thought diversity, and making it a priority in their hiring management processes.

To learn more, read Deloitte’s entire study here.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.