Trusted provider for NZX Listed Corporations, Private Companies & Not-For-Profits


Meaning of Diversity of Thought

What's the definition for diversity of thought?

Groups with potential for diversity of thought possess a range of perspectives from differences in individuals' mindsets and worldviews. However, to realize their potential groups need an inclusive culture underpinned by psychological safety that enables group members to speak-up and share their views openly. 


Diverse thinking groups can avoid the unchallenged decision-making characteristic of "groupthink" by making decisions based on facts instead of influence, authority or group allegiance. 

Diverse thinking, on diversity of Thought

Greater representative or demographic diversity is not guaranteed to increase diverse thinking...

image3

Improving representative or demographic diversity in gender, ethnicity or age is important for both social justice and access to deeper talent pools. 


It will also increase a decision-making group’s capability for diverse thinking around the represented characteristic/s but it will not necessarily increase diversity of thought more broadly. Experiences, perspectives and thought preferences may actually be similar across the group. For example: Adding a male accountant with a similar background to a group of female accountants may not materially increase diverse thinking, except in gender experience. 

Value from expertise - 'specific' diversity of thought

image4

Organizations regularly benefit from having board members, executives or other team members with different vocational experience, functional skills or network connections. Specific diversity that can bring expertise that is a good fit with particular complicated problems where specific expertise is essential – a “horses for courses” approach. 


Organizations readily manage the diverse thinking associated with specific diversity of thought by mapping their strategic requirements to a skills matrix to ensure they currently have or can recruit people with the desired attributes.

Value from difference - 'wide ranging' diversity of thought

image5

In contrast, wide-ranging diversity of thought leverages the cognitive diversity of the “wisdom of crowds” to address complex problems - those where there may be no clear ‘best’ solution. 


Groups with wide-ranging diversity of thought draw on different experiences, perspectives and cognitive preferences to avoid unchallenged assumptions ('group-think'). They can also demonstrate increased creativity and innovation by conceiving alternative approaches to both opportunities and challenges.      
The benefits of this broader type of diverse thinking are often cumulative, although realizing them requires a culture where dissent is welcomed to ensure that decisions are sufficiently challenged, and every group member is able to fully contribute to decision-making.

References:
Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds. London, UK: Doubleday.
Page, S. E. (2007). Making the difference: applying a logic to diversity. Academy of Management Perspectives, 21 (4), 6 – 20.

The power of diverse thinkers with complex problems

image6

Professor Scott E. Page, an American social scientist and his colleagues, have used computational experiments to study the decision-making performance with complex decisions. 


He found that random ("diverse thinking”) groups of problem solvers can routinely outperform groups of experts.   This happens because experts tend to have a consensus approach to problem solving, whereas a group with diversity of thought are likely to use a much broader range of tactics. They can conceptualize problems in new ways and increase the potential solutions available to them. Experts can still play a role in addressing complex problems. However, it is better to have a diverse group of them.    


Reference: Hong, L. & Page, SE. (2004). Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high ability problem solvers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101, 16385 – 16389. 

Diverse thinking - the antidote to 'groupthink'

image7

The term Groupthink was coined by Irving Janis (1918 - 1990). If a group becomes overly cohesive they may minimize conflict and rush to consensus instead of properly considering alternative options. Warning signs for the presence of groupthink include:

  • Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the consensus
  • Illusions of invulnerability
  • Illusions of unanimity 
  • Characterizing opponents as fundamentally flawed
  • Non-conformance is regarded as disloyalty

Diverse thinking groups have difference in  their mindsets and worldviews. They can avoid the unchallenged decision-making characteristic of groupthink by making decisions based on facts instead of influence, authority or group allegiance. 

"You can only manage what you can measure"

image8

The DOT Scorecard quantifies potential for diverse thinking by measuring pertinent characteristics within three categories: experiences, perspectives and thought preferences.  

The DOT Scorecard has been designed and validated with governance boards and senior leadership teams but can be applied to any decision-making group with 5 to 25 members.  

Diversity Fundamentals

Diversity - defined

Chinese lanterns as an example of diversity

Diversity (noun) The condition of having or being composed of differing elements; 

variety

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Diversity is truly multidimensional

Blue orange showing that diversity includes some characteristics that are not externally observable

Diversity is far more (diverse!) than more externally observable such as gender, age, ethnicity and even sexual orientation or disability/ability. There are numerous other characteristics that could be considered - such as different ways of addressing problems (cognitive diversity), differences in experiences, skills or beliefs. 

Diversity is entirely dependent on context

image9

An individual is not inherently diverse or non-diverse, instead the presence or degree of diversity is related to who an individual is compared to.  

Diversity of thought - defined

image10

The concept of diversity of thought is based on the idea that diverse thinking is shaped by our culture, background, experiences, and personalities. 


Reference:

 Diversity of Thought. What is it, and why is it gaining so much traction? http://www.diversitywoman.com/diversity-of-thought/