The majority of the work that we do around diversity and inclusion as HR professionals is focused on identity diversity, which is differences in our social identities…things like age, gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, physical ability, etc.
I think that there are probably some interesting discussions to be had about how effective this work has been and currently is, but I think we can at least agree that there is a lot of work still to be done.
I would suggest that, not only do we need to be more aggressive and more innovative with this body of work, we need to do a better job of integrating other kinds of difference into the conversation as well. Differences in who we are and where we come from certainly do matter; as do differences in what and how we think, or cognitive diversity.
The ability to leverage cognitive diversity is becoming critical to the success of our organizations, yet it still has not received much serious attention.
“Cognitive diversity is the extent to which the group reflects differences in knowledge, including beliefs, preferences and perspectives.” -Miller, et al (1998) Strategic Management Journal
Regardless of the organization or industry, decision making, problem solving and innovation are increasingly important competencies and opportunities for competitive advantage and all of these things are all fed by cognitive diversity.
With all the talk there is about innovation and creative problem solving, you would assume that our understanding of the mechanics involved exists on the level of common sense, but that is obviously not the case.
While we work very hard in this profession to get good at figuring out how to find and hire the right person…we seem to care little about building the right kinds of teams. Hiring the person with the right education or grades or certifications does not necessarily mean that we are building the right kind of team.
The fact of the matter is that groups of really, really smart individuals can collectively be very dumb.
“Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.“ – Lu Hong, Scott Page
Not only do we need to get better at understanding the value of thinking differently, we need to make sure that we are not being wasteful with the cognitive diversity that we already have on board. Teams, whether they are work teams or leadership teams often are not terribly good at disagreeing with each other.
In some organizations disagreeing is seen as counterproductive or even disrespectful. While it needs to be done respectfully, disagreeing is incredibly important; if we are not able to do that we are wasting any and all cognitive diversity that we have access to.
“Groups often fail to outperform individuals because they prematurely move to consensus, with dissenting opinions being suppressed or dismissed.” -Hackman & Morris, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
For more on driving innovation through cognitive diversity, make sure to check out Joe’s SHRM 2011 presentation, “Great Minds DO NOT Think Alike! Putting Cognitive Diversity to Work For Your Organization,” June 28, 2011 from 2:15-3:30 PM at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading: 06.21.2011
We hope you can join us tonight at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT for this week’s #TChat: “Does Diversity Still Matter in Today’s World of Work?“ We’ll be discussing the current state of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, what employees and employers really think about diversity initiatives and taking a look at opportunities – and challenges – of building and maintaining a diverse workforce in today’s evolving world of work.
It’s sure to be a lively discussion, so we hope you can join us at 8 PM ET on Twitter for #TChat.
Here are tonight’s questions, along with some related posts on leadership and talent we think are worth checking out. This background reading isn’t mandatory to get in on tonight’s joint #TChat action, but we suggest checking out these articles by top diversity and inclusion thought leaders before the chat (or if you missed it):
Q1: What Does “Diversity” Mean to You in 140 Characters or Less?
Q2: What role does diversity plan in an employer’s bigger talent picture?
Q3: Has anything changed about the way employers and employees look at diversity?
Q4: How can organizations benefit from building and maintaining a diverse workforce?
Q5: What are some of the biggest myths or misconceptions about diversity in today’s workplace?
Q6: What role should leaders play in diversity and inclusion?
Q7: Does diversity still matter in today’s world of work? What’s the future of diversity look like?
Visit www.talentculture.com for more great information on #TChat, as well as other great resources on careers and hiring.
Monster’s social media team supports #TChat’s mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate — the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”