Cognitive Diversity. Why & How?

Recent studies have stated that cognitive diversity makes an organisation outperform other organisations. However, because of less visibility and cultural barriers,  cognitive diversity often gets overlooked by managers. 

What is cognitive diversity and why is it an essential component of organisational behaviour and performance? We look for the answers in this article.

Cognitive Diversity. What does it mean?

Cognitive diversity is a broad concept, but it can be defined as differences in thinking, viewpoints, perspective and information processing styles – so how people feel, think, and act.

Understanding these differences, and how to harness them, enables teams to tackle problems in new ways, improve communication and increase their productivity. 

For organisations, building a culture of inclusion around these varied perspectives strengthens that culture, builds agility in change, and ultimately drives better business results.

Cognitive Diversity. Why is it important? 

An increasing number of studies have validated that cognitive diversity in teams yields more creativity, faster problem solving, and greater productivity. For example, Hermann research has shown that cognitive diversity makes teams 66% more productive. 

However, it goes far beyond just team productivity.

Fresh Perspectives & Ideas

Cognitive diversity is essential to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives. In an article published by Forbes, cognitive diversity is termed super-additive. When a collection of people work together, and one person makes an improvement, the others can often improve on this new solution even further – improvements build on improvements. Diversity and additives – now that’s a nice link for our sector!

Better Decision Making

Cognitive diversity results in wider perspectives and a broader horizon of options. When it comes to mental processes, some people are more analytical than visual, others more verbal than practical. Teams consisting of individuals with all of these qualities provide managers with different strengths so they can make better decisions, based on unbiased feedback.

Effective Problem Solving

Teams with a high deviation from the “standard” perspective (in other words, cognitive diversity) are more likely to solve a problem than non-diverse teams, according to an experiment run by HBR.

Innovation & Creativity

The wider the scale of experiences and backgrounds of management teams,  the greater the possibility of a  team to produce more innovation. According to Deloitte, cognitive diversity accounts for better business outcomes: it enhances innovation by 20 %, reduces risks by 30 %, and eases the implementation of decisions.

Better Performance

HBR also stated that there is a  strong positive correlation between cognitive diversity and performance. Thus,  according to the author  “Higher the  cognitive  diversity,  higher  the  performance.” Gartner predicts that through 2022, 75% of organisations that have a diverse and inclusive culture among frontline decision-makers will exceed their financial targets.

Cognitive Diversity. How to build a cognitively diverse workforce?

Organisations can make the most of cognitive diversity by mining its positive results. By creating a work environment that is more acceptable, participative, inclusive, receptive to different mindsets, leaders can build a long run cognitively diverse human capital for an organisation, enabling the organisation to tap all the possible opportunities available.

In the next article, we will look at strategies that can help you create a cognitively diverse workforce in your organisation.