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Cognitive Diversity

Have you challenged the group norms recently? How important is it to follow your established norms or to challenge them?


Particularly relevant to any boardroom or committee situation is the concept of “Cognitive Diversity”, which is all about consciously challenging & harnessing our differences. In any group situation, is it better to be bound by commonality of thought & therefore all in accord? OR, is it healthier for each to provide very different ideas, based on a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, abilities, interpretations, understanding etc.? This requires us to work harder to gain consensus & often involves robust debate. I think the latter is preferable, to find innovative & creative solutions, but it does takes more effort.


Why is cognitive diversity a harder workout? Each of us has a uniqueness that holds the key to innovative & creative ideas. These brilliant ideas are harder to generate in an environment where everyone thinks & acts the same (group think). However, when we are pushed to explain our ideas & thoughts more thoroughly, in an environment of people from diverse backgrounds, then we have to work that much harder to get our message across & understood.


Let’s be honest - we all prefer the familiar, the safe, the known; it seems to be in our nature – remember that early feeling of safety being cuddled up close to a parent? However, Covid-19 has thrown us all a curved ball & nothing seems certain now. The time for innovative thought leadership is here & I believe it starts with each of us being prepared to open our minds & get comfortable with seeking out diversity, in all areas of our lives, not similarity.


Next time you seek a new nomination for your board, or whatever group it may be, commit to finding someone who doesn’t fit in with the norm of the group, but who will challenge the group’s thinking & assumptions and raise the cognitive diversity bar for the better.

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