A report by the consulting firm Deloitte defines diversity of thought or cognitive diversity in this way: “Each human being has a unique blend of identities, cultures, and experiences that inform how he or she thinks, interprets, negotiates, and accomplishes a task… the focus is on…acknowledging and appreciating the potential promise of each person’s unique perspective and different way of thinking.”1
Diversity of thought is found to have three primary benefits:
- It helps guard against groupthink and expert overconfidence. Diversity of thought can help organizations make better decisions and complete tasks more successfully because it triggers more careful and deeper information processing than typically occurs in homogeneous groups.
- It helps increase the scale of new insights. Generating a great idea quickly often requires connecting multiple tasks and ideas together in a new way. Technological advances are enabling approaches such as crowdsourcing and gamification to bring the diversity of human thinking to bear on challenging problems.
- It helps organizations identify the employees who can best tackle their most pressing problems. Advances in neuroscience mean that matching people to specific jobs based on more rigorous cognitive analysis is within reach. Organizations that can operationalize faster ideation can begin to purposely align individuals to certain teams and jobs simply because of the way they think.
These findings were supported by a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review in which teams were formed based on thinking styles and then given a series of challenges.2 An assessment of their speed and accuracy revealed that the teams with the greatest amount of cognitive diversity performed far better than those with less diversity.