Employers often have a common misconception that diversity begins and ends with hiring a group of diverse individuals. This is because when we think of the words ‘diversity’ and ‘workplace’ together in the same sentence, we often think of diversity in terms of gender, race and sexuality. But that is not all that diversity stands for. When you hire a diverse group of employees, you also hire a group of diverse mindsets, and this is where Diversity of Thought comes into the picture.
What Is Diversity Of Thought?
Simply put, diversity of thought refers to being inclusive and accepting of the different perspectives and ideologies that people from different backgrounds possess. It is the ability to understand that different people interpret and react to different situations in a manner that’s reflective of their culture, upbringing and personal experiences.
Just because you have a diverse workforce doesn’t necessarily mean that your organisation includes diversity of thought. Observe your workspace and reflect, do your employees voice their opinion? And if they do, are these opinions considered?
In general, diverse organisations generate better business because they appeal to larger audiences. Having multiple viewpoints from employees of different backgrounds on how to broach a particular topic or market new products is always helpful. Here are a few ways to improve diversity of thought amongst your team
- Breakdown Unconscious Biases
It is not uncommon to possess unconscious biases against certain individuals. Sometimes due to society or the way that we are brought up, one can fall prey to beliefs that enforce negative and unsubstantiated stereotypes. A few effective training activities to eliminate your unconscious bias include the Implicit Association Test (IAT), the Tag Game adapted from Fowler (2006), and the Circle of Trust. Harvard University offers an anonymous IAT test that you and your employees can take.
2. Encourage Innovative Thinkers
As an employer, you shouldn’t always be looking for employees who are the exact fit and think the same way as you, instead, you should be searching for creative thinkers who challenge your views. For example, during World War II, Dr Robert Oppenheimer hired a number of scientists who had contrasting theoretical points of view to work on the Manhattan Project. This is because he knew that if those men could collectively work together despite their differences, they would achieve one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history. Encouraging these fresh innovative ideas helps your business stand out amongst competitors.
3. Brainstorming Meetings
Gathering your team together and sitting down to discuss different approaches and solutions to a project or problem is a great way to receive different ideas and perspectives. As a leader, it is important to create an environment that reassures all your employees that their ideas are important. This pushes them to contribute equally so that no one person is more dominant than others.“Look at any high performing business and you will see diversity of thought behind growth and innovation,” says Antonia Hock, the global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.
4. Challenge Stereotypes
According to research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology by Madera, J.M., King, E.B. & Hebl, studies have shown that challenging slurs and inappropriate or racist comments about marginalized individuals helps improve pro-diversity behaviour. I Am, But I Am Not is a great team activity that breaks down misconceptions and improves interpersonal understanding and inclusion amongst your team. When employees walk a mile in their fellow teammates’ shoes and understand the challenges and vile comments that they face, they are more likely to become sensitive to their struggles and more supportive.
Advocating for diversity of thought in your organisation is only possible if leaders, managers, and employees understand each other wholly and facilitate a sense of acceptance and belonging. This is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your organisation will thrive in our modern diverse society. To conclude, as esteemed American entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes once said, “Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”