“there is now considerable scientific evidence for the idea that cognitive or deep diversity – that is, diversity in how people feel, think, and act – has significant benefits for organizations” source Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
While there are many great interventions within organisations to increase awareness and drive change around social, gender and cultural diversity, one area that seems to be neglected is cognitive diversity, which looks at the deeper psychological functions of each individual.
As a coach, I wonder why organisations only look at diversity at one level. Maybe it is all too hard to factor in the time and effort or is the organisation lacking in expertise in People & Culture function within HR? Interestingly, there are really effective tools to help organisations understand the cognitive diversity of their employees.
One tool that has been around since the 1940’s, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI), which defines and measure cognitive diversity around our four preferences for gathering information (Sensing Vs Intuition) and making decisions (Thinking Vs Feeling). It stands to reason to achieve a good well-considered decision making you need to factor in all four of the preferences as shown in the Z model image below. Which is very hard for one person to do effectively!
Yet within many organisational groups we see a lot of ‘group think’ – people who share the same cognitive style, which can at times be a positive thing for collaboration, but does not necessarily position the team for growth! Particularly if those making the decisions have not developed their self-awareness and effectively used their non-preferred cognitive functions. For example, if a dominant decision-making style is ‘Thinking’, leveraging their logic, yet they fail to tap into their ‘Feeling’ preference and consider the needs of the people around them when making important decisions.
From a workplace culture perspective, given so much of the miscommunication, conflict, and stress can be caused by different cognitive styles, providing employees with an awareness of their preferences and those around them can only be a positive thing.
Rather than simply taking in information and making decisions leveraging their dominant cognitive functions, which provides one perspective only, they can start to gain an awareness and appreciation of the other preferences, all of which are equally as valid as their own. Steering away from the mentality of ‘I am right’ and ‘you are wrong’, that there are various equally valid diverse solutions. Yet in organisations where employees are so often under stress, this can be forgotten (even if it was once known).
Take a moment to reflect on your own cognitive style? Then consider the dominant cognitive style of those in your management and leadership groups? It may be time for your organisation to consider adding cognitive diversity to its mix of diversity initiatives and professional development. This training will also give leaders an awareness of a fantastic tool that will help them understand the preferences of their team, colleagues and clients too.
For organisations, leaders, and managers interested in learning more about cognitive diversity and training & development options to develop this please visit us at Diversitas or contact us to discuss your needs.
Kelly Magowan is a Career & Executive Coach, Leadership Development Facilitator, and runs MBTI® Training programs for organisations through Diversitas. She has built a reputation as a thought leader in the careers space, regularly appearing on ABC Radio.