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    Diversity is the crucial component for group creativity.  Innovative teams that are tasked with creating new products or technologies or reinventing existing ones need tension to produce breakthrough results.  Tension is derived from diverse points of view.  Diversity is the opposite of groupthink, which is where too much agreement and too similar points of view paralyzes otherwise high-performing teams.  Most of us have been on a team where everyone is just like us – i.e., marketing, engineers, accountants, etc.  Agreement within the team is quick and when execution falls short of desired results we realize that the easy agreements and shared conclusions were the death nail from the beginning.

    Creating and managing diverse teams is not for the faint of heart, it is hard work.  The necessary tension is difficult to manage and it requires leadership and courage.  The leader must ensure that strong disagreements are brought forth without the deteriorating arguments that can paralyze the team.

    So how do you get started?  Identify a tough challenge that the organization is currently dealing with and set a meeting with a contrarian, someone who often disagrees with your perspective.  Contrarians will challenge assumptions and are very passionate.  Invite their feedback and listen to what they have to say.  You might be surprised at how much you will learn, and how viewing a problem from a different perspective can create changes in your own ideas.  Best case is that the contrarian is now your teammate and can potentially be an owner of the issue they are weighing in on.  Turning a contrarian into an advocate and supporter is a great achievement.

    Finally, integrating diverse views to increase creativity and innovative thought is a natural job for marketers.  Typically marketing’s role is to uncover what the customer values and then delivering it.  Diversity aids enormously with this task.  The problems that customers face are often too complicated for one approach and integrating diverse perspectives from internal and external sources are key to solving them with new breakthroughs.  This approach can be leveraged by Human Resource professionals when they are being tasked with hiring and creating innovative and creative teams within the organization.




    Redefining Diversity in the Workplace Frontier of the Future:  5 Steps to Increase Thought Diversity

    The future of workplace diversity has moved beyond yesteryears definition of diversity.  We have moved beyond gender, race, and culture as the definition of diversity.  Today, we need creativity, innovation, and difference in thought in our organizations.  

    We all bring different experiences, cultures, and personalities and those differences reflect an organization’s diversity.  How we approach a problem, the lens we see things through, and the diversity in our individual observational points bring robust thinking into the workplace.

    Here are 5 steps that leaders can take to create thought diversity within their organizations.

    Consider the unconventional candidate.

    Most of us follow a script of set questions to ask each candidate and then compare the answers of each candidate.  We then tend to choose candidates whose answers closely match how we would answer the question or expect the candidate to answer.  As humans we choose mirrors of ourselves or our perceptions of the “best” choice for the team.  We end up with a team that lacks diversity and in essence all “think” alike.  We must challenge ourselves to look at the candidate that answers differently, sees the question differently, and may bring uniqueness of thought to the team.

    Leverage your team’s unique talents.

    Now that you are hiring candidates that think differently and building a diverse team, how can you leverage their uniqueness?  Get to know each member by observing their individual strengths.  Who challenges the status quo?  Who brings creative solutions?  Know each individuals unique talents so that can be used for specific assignments or tasks and maximize their strengths.

    Encourage honest feedback with specific questions

    When asking team members for feedback use specific targeted questions rather than a blanket, “what do you think?” type question.  Be specific with your questions so that your listeners respond with diverse opinions and constructive feedback.  Instead of asking the question of “what did you like”, change it and ask the question phrased as “what did you like least?”

    Introduce reverse mentoring to gain a mix of perspectives

    With technology moving at such a fast pace today, most of us see younger workers teaching older ones how to use and employ new technology tools.  Reverse mentoring creates an environment where younger employees feel they are valued and give a new perspective for the more established office members. 

    Leaders can create a culture that is open to new ideas, starting with themselves

    Thought diversity is how we think, and it reflects who they are as individuals.  If your team does not feel comfortable with sharing new ideas, then their varied ways of thinking will not be evident.  Managers should not stifle discussions or be close-minded to suggestions, even when they are their own ideas.