Cognitive Diversity - thinking differently

16 October 2017 02:50
This morning was the Australian Institute of Company Directors' annual gathering in Sydney - called the Essential Director Update. It was attended by over 2,000 directors and will have another 2,000 directors attend the same presentation around the country.

During his section on board diversity, Graham Bradley AO FAICD emphasised that Cognitive Diversity was a more important factor to support Board effectiveness than gender, culture or age.

A report in the Harvard Business Review by Alison Reynolds and David Lewis ran an exercise with over 100 teams of executives. They were looking to measure the effectiveness of visible diversity - gender, age, culture - on team performance.

When they weren't detecting any correlation they started to look at Cognitive Diversity. And this was the common element that linked all the teams who completed the exercise and those who didn't.

But how do we get people with different views into teams? How many times have you been on a selection panel and heard the phrase that "they'll fit in well"?

Before I got my first role as a trainer in the 1990's for a retail store group in the UK called John Lewis, I had to undergo a personality test (I think it was DISC, from memory). The group of trainers that I was joining had all undergone the same test and identified the skills that they didn't have in the group and wanted to get someone on board who filled that gap. And that gap filler was me.

So cognitive diversity is nothing new. But why is it back on the table with such gusto?

Since the Global Financial Crash (GFC) in 2008, a lot of work has been done in trying to prevent a similar event happening. Board diversity has been identified as one of the things makes companies more resilient. Now, it's not just good enough for boards to look diverse, it's important for them to think diversely too.

With too many people thinking the same, it creates a herd mentality and builds in blind spots that Boards ignore because nobody can see them. For example, having only medically qualified people on the Board of a hospital will leave the board open to missing financial, governance, remuneration, etc, opportunities and risks.

At First Train, thinking differently has been one of our tag lines for a number of years now - "creating the space for you to think differently and learn freely". We encourage you to do this during our coaching sessions by asking you challenging questions, questioning your perception and holding you accountable for what you decide you want to achieve.

Learning is all about thinking - we have to be an active thinker in order to change behaviour, imagine potential risks and understand that our way is not always the best way.

First Train is celebrating 10 years of business this year. If you are interested in our Executive Leadership Coaching program, then when you mention that you're a member of AICD, you'll receive 20% off our advertised prices.

Keep on learning.

by Christopher Brooks,
Director of Leadership & Learning


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