Diversity and inclusion are important and vigorously discussed topics. Diversity and inclusion within an organization — including race, gender, sexual and gender identity, and religious belief — play a critical role in leadership development and organizational performance.

As we strive to create more diverse and inclusive organizations we’d like to add to the conversation by inviting you to think about diversity from an additional perspective: diversity of thought.

“Great minds think alike, but only fools always agree”

Diversity of thought means that a business or organization is intentionally open to different points of view and actively seeking out different ways of thinking through a problem or an opportunity.

“Encouraging diversity of thought is an excellent way to get all ideas on the table for a full discussion — exploring suggestions and proposals from a variety of perspectives,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “This creates the opportunity to build a culture of debating, deciding, and committing to the very best ideas.”

Diversity of thought offers the following benefits:

Diversity of thought helps us avoid “groupthink” — the tendency for people with similar perspectives and modes of thinking to seek consensus and readily agree on a strategy, an idea, or an approach to implementation. Groupthink tends to discourage critical thinking, the exploration of alternatives, innovation, and creativity.

It defends against overconfidence. If everyone in the room has the same experiences, views challenges and opportunities the same way, and employs the same approaches to problem-solving, then interpretations, solutions, and plans of action can seem obvious (to them). Organizations are often blind-sided by the unanticipated consequences of their decisions — things that they “just didn’t see coming.”

Diversity of thought helps organizations be more innovative and creative. Better decisions are made when diverse groups of people connect and process data, ideas, and actions in new and different ways.

Diversity of thought only prospers in healthy teams

From DiSC assessments and Myers-Briggs Type Indicators to Edward de Bono’s classic “Six Thinking Hats,” there are a number of ways to seek and identify people with a range of thinking styles.

However, diversity of thought requires a robust team ecosystem to thrive. “Diversity of thought may seem like a good idea,” said Perry, “but if you’re not ready, it is going to feel like disagreement and a lack of alignment: that someone on the team just ‘doesn’t get it’ or is always pushing back.”

Companies must be willing to recognize that as diversity of thinking! “Varied and contrasting ways of thinking can only flourish and succeed in healthy team environments. That means team members need to trust each other, learn how to engage in healthy debate, be accountable to each other for their work and behavior, and commit fully to team decisions.” 

Healthy diversity and inclusion by its very nature will help to foster diverse thinking. Being intentional about diversity of thought will maximize the positive impact of diversity and inclusion in your organization.

To learn more about developing your team’s performance, executive coaching, and leadership training contact us at admin@ardencoaching.com or 646.844.2233.