Thinking Outside the Box: Diversity of Thought Edition


As it is Pride Month, we want to acknowledge the progress made in the movement but equally recognise the challenges that are still faced by the community. In the case of this article, we want to recognise the importance of equal opportunities and protection of the LGBTQ+ community and how companies can embrace individuality and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

 

“We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity”

George Takei

What is Diversity of Thought?

Diversity is the variety of human differences, including but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age or social class. Inclusion is the involvement and empowerment of people, where their worth is recognised. This, in turn, promotes a sense of belonging, respecting individuals from different beliefs and backgrounds. For Pride Month, we want to hone in on this aspect that everyone has the right to equal opportunities and be themselves in the workplace without any judgement or discrimination.

Bringing together a diverse range of individuals brings us to the concept of diversity of thought. This is where bringing different minds together in one room will foster different perspectives that may not have been offered with a homogenous mindset. Employees with a range of thinking styles and a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds will allow ideas to be challenged, questioning existing processes, therefore signalling an effective change in workplace structures.

Thinking Outside the Box

If we take a team who think and act in the same way, with similar personalities and communication styles, the output of the work will generally be the same with an organised consensus each time. This makes it difficult if the end customer is different to this way of thinking or if a new employee with different ideas comes into the team as they’d feel less likely to share their thoughts and challenge existing ideas. With this work style, it is less likely for a business to thrive and truly reach a range of customers with different needs. It is also more likely to continue producing a homogenous workforce with less room for diverse thinking.

So imagine we took people from different cultures and backgrounds; the multitude of different ideas from personal and professional experience would allow for better problem-solving methods and results. Furthermore, bringing together people with varying thinking styles allows a problem to be tackled from all angles; some people might thrive in creatively generating new ideas, whereas others work analytically. Others take more of a big picture approach. Having a mix of thinkers stimulates creativity leading to effective decision making and potential for new ideas.

Robert Stevenson advocated that the more diverse a group is, the greater the potential to discover alternative ways to do something that may lead to improvement. This supports the idea that sometimes a process that has been in place for decades may not be the most efficient way of doing things, and different thinking styles, experiences and fresh perspectives can help inspire change.

 

Diversity of Thought & Financial Growth

Embracing individuality and different viewpoints can also help drive innovation and progress. A 2014 McKinsey study reinforced the link that a more diverse workforce yields high company financial performance. Using the 2014 diversity data, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. This number rose to 21% in the 2017 data set. For ethnic and cultural diversity, there was an increased likelihood of outperformance and profitability of 35%. This further bolsters the argument that a diverse workforce is integral to enabling business growth and modernisation.

 

Valuing Employees

Greater company performance in relation to diversity is a plus, but allowing people to feel more valued and voice their thoughts in an environment that encourages them to think differently is what workforces need to place as a priority. Individuals must feel their identities are being reflected within the workplace and having a diversification of employees. Therefore ideas will allow people to be instilled in confidence to speak out and thrive in their careers. It is an organisation’s role to be conscious of encouraging open discussions and ensuring their workplace enables these transparent conversations.

What companies can do to achieve a more diverse workforce, therefore enabling a greater diversity of thought:

  1. Review existing hiring processes: Ensure your job descriptions and interview processes enable you to help identify and select people who think in diverse ways. For example, it’s important to account for individuals with autism or ADHD who have strengths in creativity, analysis and big picture thinking but may find the recruitment stages more difficult. Therefore, amending the interview process to account for people who may need reasonable adjustments and an alternative way of being assessed for the role will help you recruit top talent.

 

  1. Manage teams differently: Ensure that senior-level executives, managers and line managers regularly catch up with their employees and offer any support required. This will help employees feel comfortable and confident in being more open to sharing their opinions. For example, a manager who needs a problem that needs solving could encourage their employees to offer alternative solutions, different to traditional ideas, to create a more innovative problem-solving model.

 

  1. Fostering a culture of transparency and challenging existing ideas: When you’ve hired a more diverse group of people and have ensured the lines of communications between senior level and employees are effective, then this point should come in seamlessly. A culture whereby an employee isn’t afraid to voice their opinions and be themselves will help them to feel valued as an employee and in turn, will benefit the employer as happier employees will equal more productivity. Additionally, a more diverse workforce with different ways of thinking will drive more innovation and progress.

In summary, it is integral for a company to achieve diverse representation, which will drive diversity of thought. This will emanate to multiple benefits for the employee and the employer, as discussed above, with employees feeling more valued and employers being challenged to think differently. This isn’t something that will happen overnight but is a concept that an organisation must be conscious of and ensure they are offering a work environment that listens to their employees, is open to change and celebrates the uniqueness of all individuals.

Author: Natalie Reis, Consultant and D&I Champion

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