“If you’re constrained by classical, conventional wisdom on appointments in recruitment you’re never going to optimise the situation. You need people to bring different thought processes and challenge the system, you need a cognitive diversity”
Far too often , in work , and in life – we seek out people that validate ourselves. We look for the familiar, the mirror image. We cultivate (very often unconsciously!) a culture of “groupthink”. Corporations have bought into the commercial proposition that a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality improves our workforce. Yet all to often we overlook the diversity of thought that could truly innovate within our workplaces.
Cognitive diversity means breaking away from the perceived norm of thought process; defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles.
Cognitively diverse organisations are more genuinely inclusive and collaborative places to work.
Tech is a classic example; when looking at the companies who are now positively recruiting individuals with Aspergers or on the Autistic Spectrum. These are companies who have recognised the power of “difference” – and are using these differently wired brains to enhance performance and innovation.
We do tend to recruit in our own image – its human nature to want to fit in. But this functional bias slows the process of innovation and performance down. In a time of huge disruption – agility is critical to staying ahead. If all our talent is only able to think in one way – we reach an impasse. Teams of cognitively similar teams may be great while situations are stable – but our digital world isn’t waiting.
A First rate Madness by S. Nasser Ghaemi explores the differences further still – looking at Politcal leaders with a history of mental illness. So called “healthy” leaders such as Tony Blair operated well during politically stable times – but compare that with Churchill and the crisis after crisis that required a mind more able to change on a sixpence.
Tips for better Cognitive Diversity
Change your recruitment process:
If we always do what we always did… then we always get what we always got. A cliché – but valid. Cognitive diversity is a far less obvious recruitment challenge. Many people do not come into an interview situation expecting to show how different they are to the organisation they want to work for – so searching out cognitive diversity is an obstacle in itself. Corporations and recruiters must work together to ensure that job descriptions and interview processes seek out competencies of those who are willing and able to challenge groupthink. Seek out talent from different pools, look for the curious, the open minded, the insightful. Don’t look for the mirror image of the rest of the team!
Perhaps consider using a recruitment algorithm to help reduce some of the natural human bias – use a diverse group of people to interview
Management needs to change to show that authenicity is welcome here. Generate an inclusive culture that empowers learning from everyone. Debate welcome here – challenge welcome here. Status quo no longer relevant. A manager that can enable employees to truly express themselves will encourage cognitively diverse and collaborative teams
Organisations must actively practice what they preach and positively promote differences in thinking styles across the corporation. This needs to be factored into career development and progression to back up the culture of true human diversity in real terms. Reward innovators and encourage disruptive thinking
For further reading take a look here:
The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies – Scott Page