We are in a new economic age. Post global financial crisis and Brexit looming, austerity is not just a temporary fix, but here to stay for the foreseeable future.
As a result, public services and the not-for-profit organisations working alongside them, are under unprecedented pressure to develop new solutions, within tighter budgets and inside shifting frameworks.
These unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented solutions, and it’s only by challenging traditional ways of thinking that these fresh solutions can hope to be found.
“Diversity of thought stimulates innovation, creates learning opportunities and actively demonstrates respect.”
Organisations that champion diverse thinking have a competitive advantage in today’s economy.
You’ll guard against groupthink
In 2011 human resources publication, Talent Management, warned that organisations that don’t value diversity of thought end up creating a culture where ideas that don’t fit with the predominant culture are silenced, perhaps publicly.
The fact is, “innovation is often sparked by the clash of ideas created by diverse perspectives.”
Deloitte University Press notes research demonstrates that thought diversity can help organisations make better decisions because of the creative tension it triggers. As a result of that tension information is processed more carefully than when everyone on a team is part of the status quo.
Diverse ways of thinking, they say, bring in fresh information. Independence of thought keeps employees from being swayed by a single opinion leader.
You’ll increase employee engagement
Organisational development consultancy, Emergenetics International, has observed that when employees know their opinions and behavioural styles, no matter how diverse, are appreciated, engagement and willingness to contribute increases.
The return on investment in thought diversity can be found in increased performance of a highly engaged and motivated workforce who collaborate effectively and inclusively.
You’ll gain a broader perspective on your customers (or service users)
As Alison Paul of Deloitte notes in the Talent Management article ‘Think about thought diversity’, organisations spend a small fortune on focus groups and surveys to find out what their customers think, when in fact they have people who fit the profile of the population they serve amongst their employees.
Rich feedback and understanding can be gained from within your organisation, if only you listen. It is your responsibility to make your organisation a place where expressing those ideas and points of view is welcomed and encouraged.
Inviting input from your internal team members who offer a different perspective on how you’re doing things, will help you make sure your services, and how you communicate about them, address your audiences effectively.
You’ll promote a better appreciation of all kinds of diversity
Individuals that challenge cultural norms stir up feelings of discomfort and fear, but a lack of openness will create tension where those who don’t fit the norms feel unappreciated and excluded.
When cognitive diversity is promoted and appreciated, employees not only feel more engaged but they also gain a better understanding of difference – beyond the obvious cultural, racial and gender differences – and the importance of valuing it.
So valuing thought diversity will encourage even more diversity and innovation by pushing employees out of their homogenous comfort zones.
You’ll speed up learning and proficiency
In a workplace where cognitive differences are encouraged and supported, employees can more easily build relationships. These connections will build on the strengths of each style of thinking, increasing learning opportunities and enabling individuals to become proficient in their roles more quickly.
So now you’re sold on the advantages of encouraging thought diversity, the next step is to consider how do you go about encouraging it and increasing it?