July 2020

Diversity of Thinking

I am currently working on a project with a multinational corporation which has a distinctive hierarchy in the leadership team in terms of tenure. Most of the senior executives have been with the organisation for more than 20 years. The organisation is looking to reinvent itself, however there is resistance to change in the leadership team as they are highly successful and dominant in the areas they operate. Hence, the adage of ‘why fix something that is not broken?’ however the CEO is keen to future proof the organisation. One of the things that has become clear to me is that there is a lack of diversity within the team in different ways of thinking and hence their rhetoric is not aligned with the changes they are trying to evoke.

There are numerous case studies showing the value that diversity of thinking brings to organisations in terms of innovation, product development, customer service and staff engagement. There is no question that it is more challenging managing diverse teams yet that is a critical part of overcoming groupthink. When a group of people are trained in a certain discipline or come from a particular background, then it becomes easy to default to a particular line of thinking which limits holistic thinking and solutions.

An example of this was seen recently in Melbourne where the state government has struggled to convey the messaging around COID19 to the multicultural community. Instead of directly consulting with community leaders who have a sense of the cultural values and the best ways to engage with their community, the government failed to take this approach initially. They have since corrected this however the cost has been misunderstandings, increased tensions and more COVID-19 cases. A more positive example is of a Muslim Aussie Rules player who described on social media the impact of his mother being unwell with COVID-19. The way he communicated the message resonated with the Muslim community as it aligned with their values, norms and belief systems.

With the multinational organisation mentioned above, there are now a number of initiatives being incorporated into the project to encourage looking at things differently and engaging other perspectives. What are some of the ways you can incorporate diversity of thinking into your everyday life and work? How can it assist you to be more innovative and open minded to different solutions?

Book Recommendation:


Which Two Heads are Better Than One ?: How Diverse Teams Create Breakthrough Ideas and Make Smarter Decisions, Juliet Bourke, 2017

Drawing on rigorous academic and applied research, Juliet Bourke- the leader of Deloitte's Australian Diversity and Inclusion consulting, challenges mainstream assumptions about diversity of thinking. She provides practical ideas to help ensure teams see scenarios broadly, discuss options thoroughly and mitigate social, informational and attentional biases effectively. Bourke sets out to answer a major missing piece of the diversity debate so far - how do diverse teams create breakthrough ideas? She walks us through the answers step by step, making sure to leave no stone unturned.

This book is useful for any leader looking to increase their ability to create genuinely diverse thinking groups, engage in more productive conversations and make wiser judgements.