Diversity of Thought in the Workplace
They say that great minds think alike, but is this necessarily true? Humans are, after all, unique and distinct from each other. With many organizations now pushing for more workplace diversity—including anything from gender and sexual orientation to cultural background and religion—isn’t it about time they start considering diversity of thought, too?
While diversity often leads to an image of a workplace consisting of different ages, backgrounds, cultures, ethnic origins, sexualities, genders, sexual identities, and more, these only form part of what diversity is—the rest boils down to diversity of thought.
What is Diversity of Thought?
In the context of the workplace, diversity of thought refers to the range of mindsets, perspectives, and thought processes that are found within an organization’s workforce.
In many ways, diversity of thought is the result of a strong diversity & inclusion strategy. This is because existing diversity in areas like gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, disability, and mental health naturally broadens the range of perspectives within an organization.
In 2017, Apple’s then vice president for diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, drew fire by saying that, ”12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men could be diverse.”
Despite the way she said this drawing criticism, the point she seemed to be making was that you could have 12 people of the same color, background, religion, gender, or age, yet still not be fully maximizing diversity if you’re not considering diversity of thought.
After all, what good is it promoting and prioritizing diversity if everyone is thinking the same way?
Why is it Important?
Given the potential benefits of having diversity of thought, it’s important for organizations to find ways to bring in and nurture different perspectives within the workplace. As touched on above, a strong diversity & inclusivity strategy is a great way to do this. Setting targets regarding the proportion of new hires that should be women, LGBTQ+, people of color, or from other unrepresented groups will often help to increase momentum.
This is supported by data from McKinsey which says that the likelihood of outperformance increases proportionally to the rates of diversity: Companies with more than 30 percent female executives, for example, tended to outperform organizations where the percentage was between 10 and 30.
How Can Organizations Achieve It?
If you want to see positive change within your organization, it’s on you to find ways to motivate your employees and encourage them to think differently. Here are a few ways you can do this:
Encourage Self Development
If you want your employees to think differently, they need to be constantly looking to improve themselves and bring the best version of them to work each day. If your employees are stressed, tired, or struggling with something, it will have a negative impact on how they think and detract from their work.
Encouraging your employees to focus on self-care and development is therefore essential and correlates directly with seeing positive results. So, before you start encouraging your people to think differently, you must first ensure that appropriate health and wellbeing support is in place.
Encourage Innovative Thinking and Ideas
Your employees are full of ideas. Unfortunately, many of these go untapped. So, when an employee comes to you with an idea that you think might work, go with it, and see what happens.
By taking your employees’ ideas and turning them into reality, you show that you’re listening to and care about your employees. If an idea works out—great! If it doesn’t, don’t be harsh. Taking risks is unavoidable when it comes to innovation, and employees will be reluctant to come to you with their ideas if others have been lambasted when theirs haven’t worked.
Encourage Teamwork and Teambuilding
While team-building activities and bonding sessions have largely been set aside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many nations are now coming out of lockdowns and other restrictions. If you’re in a country where it’s now possible to get everybody together for a day of activities and bonding—do it.
It’s probably been a while since your team got together all as one, and some of the best ideas come from people who are working together. It also gives your employees the chance to see things from other peoples’ points of view. And given that most employees have been working apart for almost two years now, this can’t be a bad thing.
A Powerful Driving Force
As Deloitte put it, “Reinforce an inclusive culture by integrating both demographic diversity and diversity of thought. By integrating both, your organization will form a mosaic of differences that fuels ideas and new strategies for growth and innovation.”
Diversity of thought, when encouraged, can become a powerful driving force within your organization. With the right approach and direction, you can encourage diversity of thought to increase efficiency, engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, all of which encourage organizational growth.