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Cognitive Diversity: a Workforce needs a MindSonar® solution

July 6, 2021
Ian Clarke

Only a few weeks ago I was reminded about diverse thinking. I coach Colts Rugby and had, for my sins, agreed to help the under 7s team. Being prepared for herding cats, I planned a session to finish with a game. One 7-year-old explained how I could improve the game. I reluctantly entertained his idea and it was a hit. I had fun, the kids had fun and we were more productive in achieving the same outcomes of evasion, pace and teamwork.  

So let me ask you to stop and think. Yes, stop and think.  How many people do your clients have in their workforce that look like them, agree with them and act like them? The other rugby coaches did not question the game I had proposed. They look and sound similar to me.  

A lot has been written about diversity in the past 25 years and much has been concerned with demographic diversity. That is, diversity which is based on colour or race, sexuality, gender, age and culture.  Rightly so.  Demographic diversity is a must. It has been proven many times that an organisation that does not actively engage in diversity can limit ability and productivity. Organisations with a diverse workforce have the ability to be more productive. The Royal Academy of Engineering identified research into culture and inclusion in engineering and found that ‘inclusion benefits the performance of individual engineers, with 80% reporting increased motivation, 68% increased performance and 52% increased commitment.’

Failure to engage with people who are diverse has led to well documented disasters such as the 9/11 bombings in the USA. The CIA at the time was populated with highly intelligent men, ‘the best of the best,’ white, Ivy-League educated men. They overlooked the warning signs of a terrorist attack. Why? Because they could not perceive the threat or signs of build-up in terrorist activity. Despite the high entrance examinations and psychological assessments to become an agent for the CIA they lacked diversity and reference experience beyond their world. They lacked understanding of an impending problem. Their perception in the context of attacks in the USA was: it will never happen, they cannot win.  The CIA agents were all from a similar mould and this had served the CIA well. 

However, while the agents lacked demographic diversity and reference experience to a problem, it has also been argued they lacked understanding and had little cognitive diversity within their group. As MindSonar® professionals we can explain the measurement of others against ourselves as thinking differently or being cognitively diverse.  We know this in simple terms as how you think and what you value, what drives or motivates YOU is different to ME. Neither is good or bad, it’s how that style serves us at that time in a specific context.  Our cognitive style, as we know, is not our personality. Our style is not fixed but it is flexible.   

Let me give an example that might prove helpful for clients.  You know when you have experienced a problem and you have contacted a friend or called a wise parent who has provided new insight to your approach because they experienced the same or a similar problem before?  I suspect you can recall how grateful you were for their input and how much time it saved you. Imagine doing this always in the work environment.   Imagine if the CIA had access to MindSonar® measurement for building a team of diverse thinkers?

So back to our problem: the skills of MindSonar® can help – instead of dialling a friend or colleague, why not advise a client to dial internally and ask some questions about what approach would be more helpful from referenced experience? What options or steps could be useful here? What could go wrong or what do they need to solve this? By using the opposite of your meta programmes you gain access to a range of new answers. Jaime Leal uses this approach with teams by leaving them with a MindSonar® coach in the room poster – a set of questions that a team can ask of themselves to manage their blind spots. 

It would be fair to say fostering demographic diversity gains different views, but it is not targeted at thinking differently.  Yes, we may gain some advantage if we have people from different backgrounds but if they attended the same school, and the same training programmes, they are likely to act like each other.  So demographic diversity only partly meets the world of change we face with artificial intelligence which poses many challenges to our work. 

With complex problems we need a variety of views on how to approach and understand information or to solve problems. Price Waterhouse Cooper identify that we are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and ‘thinking machines’ are replacing human tasks and jobs and changing the skills that organisations are seeking in their people. These momentous changes raise huge organisational, talent and HR challenges – at a time when business leaders are already wrestling with unprecedented risks, disruption and political and societal upheaval. 

Now we know the problems, it is fair to say we have one of the best solutions available: MindSonar®.

If we are going to meet the demands of the future, we need to share how we can develop understanding of  a workforce in others so that workforce can be more productive, solve problems more effectively and challenge each other to gain results. Perhaps we need organisations to develop a change in what they ask when seeking the right people for the roles they have. Instead of asking: who do we need? Perhaps we could encourage organisations to ask: what do we need in terms of thinking style and values against our long-term needs and gaps in the organisation?

Organisations by their nature in these unprecedented times and rapid development want success regardless of their motivators and the quickest way to gain success is by harnessing the right workforce to do the right job at the right time. The workforce that understands and harnesses different styles through understanding will be the workforce that lasts and WE  have the key to unlock their success.  

After over 20 years of coaching rugby, a diverse, uninhibited thinker, aged 7, brought fun and energy to my coaching. Cognitive diversity in the workplace to meet future demands is so important because #thinkingmakesitso when we use MIndSonar®

About the author 

Ian Clarke

Ian is the Director of Workforce Solutions Group and MindSonar® UK.
A coaching & training company based in Leicestershire, England. Passionate about understanding and inspiring change because #thinkingmakesitso

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