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Is Your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy the Right Strategy?
March 10, 2022
I work with leaders across different industries and brands all over the world, and now more than ever, they’re asking some key enterprise questions:
What does the post-pandemic future of work look like?
How do we attract, develop, and retain top talent?
How do we create psychologically safe workspaces and employee wellbeing?
These are critically important challenges in all organizations, but there is one challenge that I find causes more stress and anxiety than any other:
How do I ensure Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is rooted throughout our culture and our path forward, rather than merely a reactionary initiative?
There are many reasons why this particular challenge rises to the top. Among them, for as much as society is advancing to create more demographically diverse workplaces, many top leaders in organizations still skew male and Caucasian.
A common theme I hear in my conversations: How can I lead DEI in my organization when I myself am still awakening to my own conscious and unconscious biases? What if I say something unintentionally insensitive, ignorant, or worse!
The truth is, I have yet to experience any organizational DEI journey that doesn’t have moments of emotion, messiness, and even pain. What if this emotional journey stood on a collective foundation of respect, appreciation and understanding? This can be achieved, and the answer lies in starting with the “D” in the DEI.
START WITH DIVERSITY, SPECIFICALLY, COGNITIVE DIVERSITY
Cognitive Diversity in organizational terms is the measurement of how people and teams think and behave. As DEI initiatives grow globally, measuring and celebrating diversity of thought is a key ingredient of any strategy aimed at fostering greater belonging in organizations. Emergenetics, a leader in measuring Cognitive Diversity, has profiled over a half million people for the last 30 years. In one of their surveys of participants who had their thinking and behavioral preferences measured, they found that:
79% of participants gained greater self-awareness
68% of participants improved their working relationships
63% of participants experienced better collaboration
Imagine a workforce where everyone has an appreciation for themselves, their teams, and has a common vocabulary to express it. As the importance of soft skills like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, adaptability, collaboration, and agility increases, organizations that focus on cognitive diversity will have the opportunity to drive healthier decision making and stronger results than those who do not. Based in science rather than emotion, Cognitive Diversity is the foundation on which solid DEI journeys can stand.
Three ways Cognitive Diversity benefits workplace culture:
COGNITIVE DIVERSITY AND THE INTENT-IMPACT GAP
Cognitive Diversity helps bridge the “Intent-Impact Gap” which is the difference between how people perceive their own actions versus the way people interpret their actions. When we misunderstand the intentions of others, costly miscommunication and workplace dysfunction arise. Measuring cognitive diversity creates self-awareness among teams, helping individuals understand their own thinking and communication preferences as well their team members. The result is greater communication, enhanced decision-making skills, healthier cultures, and yes more open and honest DEI journeys.
COGNITIVE DIVERSITY AND DEMOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY - BETTER TOGETHER
In the context of DEI, many businesses think of the “D “only in terms of demographic diversity. Demographic diversity focuses on measuring the statistical mix across a group among categories like gender, race, age, and ethnicity. Cognitive and demographic diversity are both critically important, however, it’s important to note a company can be demographically diverse and still be cognitively uniform.
Think about an organization that likes to hire graduates from specific schools, has rigid decision-making structures, or replaces departed talent with new people that have the same skill set as the former employee. In other words, by only focusing on only one type of diversity, organizations run the risk of not enjoying the greatest benefit of diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces: Innovation.
COGNTIVITE DIVERSITY DRIVES INNOVATION
According to research cited by Deloitte,*** diversity of thought enhances innovation by about 20%, while simultaneously allowing groups to spot potential pitfalls, reduces risk by as much as 30%. Even the US Armed Forces recognizes the importance of Cognitive Diversity. An article**** written by the US Navy’s Office of Strategy and Innovation states: “Innovation requires the ability to question norms, synthesize different views, and collaborate to develop unique and powerful solutions. Cognitive diversity is the DNA of innovation.”
Is your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy the right strategy? Is it diverse enough? Is Cognitive Diversity part of your overall DEI strategy?
By broadening the narrative around diversity, everyone in an organization has a chance to feel part of a shared enterprising goal. Combined with demographic diversity, cognitively diverse teams have the opportunity to be more high performing than those who only focus on one or the other.
The more we know about ourselves and one another, the closer we are to achieving truly diverse, inclusive, and empowering workplaces where everyone feels a sense of equity, inclusion, and belonging.