It’s not what you say but how you say it. Did you also know it’s not what you think but how you think it?

Diversity is more than race or culture, and bigger than gender too.

Diversity of thought, or thought diversity, is a relatively new concept, as explored by consulting and professional services company Deloitte in this 2013 study but it makes perfect sense.

Innovation and creative problem solving are essential in an environment of constant change, increasing competition and higher and higher customer and stakeholder expectations. If ‘groupthink’, or a tendency towards conformity in decisions is all pervasive, then how is innovation and creativity encouraged?

Neurological technologies identifying how people think are in development and are expected to become a business tool of the future, in the same way strategies such as psychometric testing were introduced and became common place in the 1990’s.

Deloitte has 5 simple suggestions for organisations and managers to encourage thought diversity and impact on the think mix in the workplace, with an aim to encourage creativity and innovation, and ultimately improve efficiency, productivity and profitability.

The most obvious candidate may not be the right one. The applicant who answers all the expected questions in the expected ways may not be the right person for your organisation depending on the role and the environment they are entering. The person who brings a different but not necessarily incorrect perspective is the person more likely to bring a diversity of thought to the team. If change and innovation is required, the person who answers the questions the other high achievers missed may be a better option for you.

Assess and identify how team members think. Look at the ways in which individuals think, and how they approach a challenge or a problem, and harness that skill when it comes to allocating tasks or distributing projects. Are they analytical? Mathematically minded or better with words? Creating the right mix in a team or on a project will not only improve individual efficiency and contribution but benefit the organisation as a whole.

Be specific to increase feedback. Asking your team what they think of a presentation, proposal or idea is one way to seek responses but you are more likely to get the answers you want to hear and encourage ‘groupthink’ than honest feedback. Clear, direct questions such as ‘what problems or issues to you perceive’ or ‘what have I overlooked’ are far more likely to not only elicit honest responses but also encourage contribution and innovative thought.

Encourage reverse mentoring. With so much change occurring daily, particularly in the case of technology, it may be the younger team members teaching the old dogs new tricks instead of the other way around. Learning goes both ways and providing opportunities for younger members to feel valued and contribute whilst providing a fresh perspective for more established team members makes good business sense as well as encouraging diversity of thought.

Create an open culture that values individuality. It’s easy to recruit in your own image and be surrounded by people who think like you and will agree with your ideas. Easy, but not diverse. Team members need to feel comfortable in their individuality and diverse thinking styles, or creativity and innovation can be stifled. Lead by example and encourage feedback and feedback, allowing variety and creativity. And watch the team and the organization reap the benefits.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! – Dr. Seuss

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