Over the past few weeks I’ve been developing some on-line learning on unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion. It’s been a useful endeavour, not least as a reminder of the limits a lifetime of experience and conditioning create.
There’s plenty of evidence telling us that diversity and inclusion make a real difference to organisational performance as well as creating workplaces with greater humanness and humanity at heart. Progress is being made, through legislation and proactive focus and programmes to create more diverse workforces, more inclusive cultures and, ultimately, better organisations.
There’s one area we may be paying less attention to though, and where our attention could make a significant difference – and that’s diversity of thinking. Deloitte’s ‘Diversity and Inclusion Revolution’ report talks about diversity of thinking leading to a 20% uplift in innovation and 30% reduction in risk.
Beyond this, there’s the impact the organisation could have on the world. Don’t we need new and different thinking to shift the contribution we can make to world and the challenges we face as humanity?
The thing is, accessing this potential may well mean moving into discomfort. As leaders we may need to open ourselves to greater challenge. We must seek out difference. People who see the world differently, who hold different convictions, who are more vocal in their views, who may differ from our team, who may ruffle more than a few feathers, including ours.
We may need to let go of a fixed/right way of doing things and encourage others to do the same. We may need to widen the circle of people whose perspectives and inputs we seek when making decisions, even if we’re sure we have the rights answer.
Perhaps we can bring the people who are dismissed as negative and cynical into dialogue. Under these expressions of dissatisfaction we may find some powerful positive ideas emerging and a willingness to get behind them.
If we’re bringing new people into our team, recruiting to the same old specification will bring sameness. Maybe it is time to review and recast that specification to attract something different.
The diversity of thinking we need is undoubtedly out there – within our organisation as well as beyond. If we can get over the potential resistance in ourselves and embrace the likely discomfort we’d be accessing a resource that can help us bring powerful change not just in our organisation also in the contribution our organisation makes to a better world.