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What is cognitive diversity?

by | Feb 28, 2023

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It is not uncommon for people to clash with their colleagues at work. This can often be due to conflicting opinions, different levels of experience or knowledge, miscommunications, and a range of other issues. It’s important to remember that everyone has different perspectives and experiences that shape the way they view certain situations. 

Everyone thinks differently and sometimes people struggle with that, but this is something to be celebrated, not something to fear!

So, what is cognitive diversity?

Cognitive diversity is a term used to describe the range of different thinking styles, approaches, and mental processes that people use when working together. It involves recognising and respecting each person’s unique ways of perceiving and interpreting information, tackling problems, forming opinions, and solving challenges. By valuing cognitive diversity in a team setting you can create an atmosphere of open-mindedness where new ideas can take shape and grow. 

Encouraging cognitive diversity has many benefits both professionally and personally. Professionally speaking it provides teams with a broader array of perspectives which they can draw upon while exploring issues or working on projects. It also allows for more creative problem-solving as different methods are brought to bear on challenging tasks. On a personal level, it can help individuals build and maintain relationships with their coworkers by developing an understanding of one another’s different ways of thinking. 

Beyond simply creating an atmosphere of openness, there are specific strategies that teams can use to promote cognitive diversity. These include providing support for introspection and reflection, encouraging members to ask questions, listening actively to all perspectives, and seeking out alternative solutions. By implementing these practices you can create a work culture where everyone is empowered to bring their unique ideas forward and contribute in meaningful ways. 

The Whole Brain® Thinking framework is one tool you can use to develop a cognitively diverse workforce. The framework represents a four-quadrant model of the brain that’s based on research by Ned Herrmann. The quadrants represent four thinking styles: analytical, intuitive, creative, and practical. 

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each style, teams can better understand each other and collaborate more effectively.

Why is diversity important in the workplace?

Diversity in the workplace is important for a variety of reasons, including increasing creativity and innovation. A diverse work environment allows for different perspectives, which can lead to more creative solutions to problems. Diversity also helps employees feel included and valued, which improves morale and motivation. Additionally, having a diverse team can help businesses reach customers from different backgrounds and cultures. All of these benefits contribute to the overall success of a business. Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture is essential for any organisation that wants to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. 

Ultimately, having a diverse team of employees is essential for any business that wants to meet the needs of its customers and stay competitive in today’s ever-changing workplace environment.  By investing in diversity initiatives and creating an inclusive culture, organisations can ensure they are prepared to take on any challenge that comes their way. 

The key takeaway here is that by embracing diversity in the workplace, organisations can reap numerous benefits and be set up for long-term success. Investing in diversity initiatives not only ensures fairness within the company but also helps create an atmosphere where everyone feels like they belong and are respected. With an inclusive culture, businesses can foster creativity and innovation, as well as reach more customers. 

How can cognitive diversity benefit your organisation? 

Organisations with cognitively diverse teams are better able to solve problems, innovate and adapt to change. This is because they have a wider range of perspectives and ideas to draw from. Besides the benefits that teams experience, here are some advantages you can realise at the organisational level.

Improved decision-making

Identifying problems and finding solutions isn’t a one-person job. The best decisions are made when leaders can look to a diversity of experiences and backgrounds to get a 360-degree understanding of what needs to be done. 

A cognitively diverse workforce allows leaders to move past their thinking and potential biases. They and their teams are more likely to spot errors or gaps in thinking — and propose creative, long-term solutions. When leaders seek out different perspectives and welcome constructive criticism of ideas and strategies, people feel safer speaking up. Great ideas aren’t lost because someone feared speaking up or because groupthink turned the process into a fait accompli.

Enhanced creativity and innovation

Common wisdom can help establish norms and repeatable processes, but the most creative ideas rarely come from studying the status quo. You need a new source of information and inspiration, and gathering people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences is one way to spark creativity. 

Embracing a cognitively diverse team means creating an environment where employees feel like they can voice their ideas and solutions. Ideation is a process, so employees need to feel comfortable talking through their concepts, getting input from co-workers, and collaboratively deciding on the best approach. Teams that practise diversity of thought often develop final products that are a collection of everyone’s contributions, not one lone genius’ idea.

Greater adaptability and flexibility

A cognitively diverse team grapples with uncertainty every day. They’re ideally suited to weather change, disruption, and disagreement — and move forward productively. And in today’s constantly changing business landscape, companies need to adapt quickly to challenges, especially sudden and unforeseen changes. 

Whether it’s changing processes to fit a new business need or reshaping a team’s job duties, a cognitively diverse workforce can summon the flexibility to meet the challenge.

What do cognitively diverse teams look like?

Cognitively diverse teams don’t have one distinctive “look,” but you might notice how they approach challenges and solve problems differently than traditional teams.

For example, cognitively diverse teams typically have a wider range of perspectives and experiences to draw from. This can make them better equipped to solve complex problems, adapt to disruption, and take informed risks.

Many teams struggle to agree on how to approach work tasks, oftentimes because team members don’t understand each other’s thinking preferences and communication styles. Cognitively diverse teams that rely on Whole Brain® Thinking have this information at their fingertips, helping them explore differences with empathy and collaboration rather than conflict.

Get started with cognitive diversity

The truth is that every company can benefit from cognitive diversity, but they aren’t taking advantage of this powerful approach. Like diversity and inclusion efforts, leaders and managers are powerful influencers who determine whether your organisation accepts the challenges or is content with the old ways of working. When you embrace a diversity of thought, you set yourself, your team, and your organisation up for better thinking, improved creativity, and sustained success.

If you want to learn more about how Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® can help you and your organisation, have a look at how it works here or get in touch and we’ll help you find the right solution.

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