If you look to mould employees and their habits of thinking in your organisation’s image, you stunt your organisation’s potential to grow. Diversity of thought is untapped rocket fuel.
Look at your workforce’s collective thought activity as a potential Big Bang. Given licence, one employee will go surging off in one direction; another will be testing the boundaries down another path. Let the shape of this thought universe mould your organisation’s image – not the other way round. Allow people to follow their instincts and you might just find a star.
1. Frankly, if you ever asked your team to ‘think outside the box’, it just means your box is too small. Diversity of thought defines the size of the box. In-depth research into the financial benefits is a young science, but a 2015 study of UK, US and Indian firms by the accountancy firm Grant Thornton found that companies perform better when they have at least one female executive on the board.
Further analysis is awaited but the value of thought diversity has long been apparent to successful business people. A classic example comes from Alfred Sloan, CEO of General Motors from 1923 to 1946. At the end of a meeting, Sloan sought to ascertain from those present that all was well and that the issue under discussion had been resolved. When the response of the attendees suggested that this was indeed the case, Sloan said:
“Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until the next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement, and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
2. This is about diversity of thought’s capacity to annihilate groupthink – which is poison to an organisation with wide-ranging ambitions. If there’s too much agreement (groupthink) along the way, a proposal gets insufficiently tested. And when it reaches the wider world – which is, of course, incredibly diverse – its faults and flaws will be writ large. In fact, even if it reaches an audience or market with the same homogeneity as the team behind it, it risks eliciting a ‘Yeah, so what?’ response. It’s all too easy. Too smooth. Too obvious.
Having a common goal does not mean you should have common thought processes. Don’t confuse homogeneity with harmony.
3. Finally, diversity of thought attracts talent. If your organisation looks like a club for a certain group, top candidates who feel excluded by that reputation might simply look elsewhere.
I have written an eBook which gives you 7 ways diversity of thought can bring back sensible thinking. In the next few weeks I will cover these topics in my blog. If you want to read them all in one go, you can download the eBook here.