Cognitive diversity: More problem-solving ability and engagement in your company

Cognitive diversity: More problem-solving ability and engagement in your company

Diversity is an increasingly common theme. And rightly so, because consciously paying attention to diversity delivers a lot to society and businesses. After all, you make personal and business growth possible if you start from the idea that you can look at any problem or challenge in different ways, according to marketing expert Desmond Boateng in his blog.

The phrase that sums up this idea is cognitive diversity. This “Diversity of Thought” is something that has been on my mind for some time. So it was obvious that that would be the topic of my TEDx Talk I gave recently. In my talk, I talked about my experiences with cognitive diversity and what it brought me. In this article, I’ll tell you exactly what cognitive diversity is, what its benefits are and how you can apply it within your own business and how I implemented this for DGTLbase

What exactly is cognitive diversity?

In cognitive diversity, you deliberately bring together in a team people who each think from different perspectives and in different ways. The focus is on achieving a mix of how people perform intellectual activities. This includes things like making associations or drawing conclusions.

Because they differ in their thinking and have unique perspectives, this produces a range of, often surprising, solutions to the same problem. Cognitive diversity thus helps you develop a new strategy or an innovative product.

My experience with cognitive diversity

During my studies, I discovered the impact that cognitive diversity had. Collaborating with people with whom I had a lot in common was easier. But collaborating precisely with fellow students who thought differently from me had much more impact. We stayed in school longer to discuss things with each other. We challenged each other to look at things from different angles and to think about them in a different way. With higher grades on our projects as a result.

The benefits of cognitive diversity

As an entrepreneur, you’re obviously not interested in higher school grades. But you are interested in improving your company’s bottom line. Paying attention to cognitive diversity on your team gives you three benefits:

– A message from our partner –

  1. Individuals who think about a problem in different ways come up with different solutions than the ones you’re thinking about. Combining these ideas often yields better insights and solutions than if everyone agrees with each other immediately. Cognitive diversity thus enhances your team’s problem-solving ability.
  2. We deliberately deploy cognitive diversity with every client we work for. We gather diverse ideas and feedback from our team members to have as much input as possible. In addition, we use a template at the start of each project. The template keeps us on our toes when reviewing our final plan for originality and new technologies and processes we can use. An additional tool to monitor the distinctiveness of our approach compared to similar cases.
  3. When you consciously pay attention to cognitive diversity within your company, you create space for sharing ideas. For example, give employees from other departments the opportunity to put their insights and ideas on the table during brainstorming sessions and take their input seriously. This not only provides new perspectives, but also affects the connection they feel with your organization. In fact, employees who feel valued are more engaged and more likely to commit to the success of your company.
  4. Paying attention to everyone’s unique talents and perspectives and being open to different ways of thinking motivates your employees to go for the best results. A team with employees who go for success come up with unique ways to make that happen. And innovative solutions and employees who feel more connected to your organization lead to better business results.

How do you start cognitive diversity in your business?

Of course, it is not always natural to look at other angles within an organization to address a challenge. Usually the majority decides what the best solution is. But it can be done differently, and you can take steps to slowly grow toward a work culture with cognitive diversity.

Ensure that a team can represent itself without interference from above

Be open to different perspectives and feedback. For example, you can gather these during a meeting with staff representatives. Talk extensively with the team about the “tips & tops” in the company: what goes well internally and what could be different and better?

At DGTLBase, we took care of this by:

  1. Appointing two team members as staff representatives
  2. Asking all employees to share their ’tips and tops’ via the suggestion box before a staff representative meeting
  3. Discussing the tips that often come back in the suggestion box during the meeting
  4. Schedule a meeting with management to discuss the insights
  5. As management, to come up with a response and follow-up steps within a month

For example, as management, we discovered that our team updates with retrospectives and previews were not always clear to our employees. We initially tried to improve that ourselves, without the desired results. The extensive input and feedback from a team member, who looked at our presentations from our team’s perspective, taught us how to better convey our message from now on.

Ensure employees have equal opportunities for growth and development

Everyone in your company has an equal right to growth and development. Therefore, offer all employees equal training and development paths. You further enhance the feeling of equal opportunity by handing out rewards and promotions in an even manner.

Consciously look for people who are not like yourself and your current teammates

As I experienced during my college years, it is easy to gather people with whom you feel connected in some way. But I also noticed that that doesn’t always lead to the best results. Therefore, when we conduct job interviews for our company, diversity is our guiding principle. We have developed a template of set questions specifically for this purpose to avoid being guided by our unconscious biases. Below are examples of biased questions and the unbiased versions of them we use:

  • Biased: How old are you? When did you complete your studies
  • Unbiased: Tell me more about the education you have received and the relevant degrees/certifications you have earned? What (learning/study) experiences have you had that are relevant to this role?
  • Bias: Are you a Dutch citizen?
  • Unbiased: Are you legally authorized to work in the Netherlands? Are you allowed to work for any employer?
  • Biased: Where are you originally from? What is your country of origin? What is your nationality/ethnicity?
  • Unbiased: Can you tell me something about your cultural background? Are there any cultural traditions or customs that are important to you?

Want to learn more about cognitive diversity? Then be sure to check out my TEDx Talk. In it, I explain what my learning moments were and how I arrived at my insights. Would you like to spar with me about diversity, online marketing or SEO? Please contact me at [email protected].

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