Who wants a silenced work culture? One that dismisses others, produces incomplete ideas and solutions, and results in division and narrow thinking?
Coming from a work environment where ‘group think’ was a recurring weakness, I would argue that thought or cognitive diversity is the most important type. Focusing only on ‘checkbox’ diversity (e.g., race, gender, and how people look on the outside) produced predictable deliverables and outdated approaches. Alternatively, practicing diversity of thought creates healthy work cultures that embrace the strengths and differences of its people.
Achieving Diversity of Thought
To ensure that you are maximizing work success and outcomes, allow your diverse workforce to share their perspectives and utilize their strengths. Here are some ways to promote thought diversity in the workplace:
Leverage personality tests: Use workstyle evaluations—Enneagram, Meyers-Briggs, Strengthsfinders, etc.—to identify and collaborate with those most different from you.
Hire differently: Instead of hiring someone who thinks similarly to you, consider the individual who doesn’t answer the interview questions how you would, but of course gives insightful and appropriate responses.
Welcome opposition: Create safe environments where individuals are encouraged to voice differing opinions. And offer them multiple ways to provide input, allowing for anonymity when needed. Hold leaders accountable for listening to and implementing different perspectives.
Reward uncomfortable conversations: Give employees intrinsic or financial incentives for sharing new or opposing ideas, and show them how their suggestions are incorporated.
Prioritize strategy over speed: Build in time to run ideas and deliverables by someone who is likely to identify things you wouldn’t have considered. Outsource, get second opinions, and consult with co-workers or companies that offer a broader perspective, especially for important assignments.
Let’s do our best to embrace diversity of thought—in addition to other types of diversity—not only in the workplace, but in all aspects of life. Then we can truly respect one another, learn to ‘agree to disagree,’ and celebrate the benefits of diversity and healthy living.