The Hard Truth About Cognitive Diversity On Your Team

Study after study has shown that diverse teams perform at a higher level than homogeneous teams.  When teams are diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, and gender, they are more creative, more productive, generate better returns and contribute to successful organizations. That’s what conventional wisdom tells us, at least.  

But could something else be at play?  

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, this conventional wisdom may be completely wrong.  The researchers behind the article contend that it is not outward diversity that makes the difference in team effectiveness, but cognitive diversity.  

What is Cognitive Diversity?  

Cognitive diversity refers to the differences between people’s perspectives and information processing styles. It is all about the various ways people think about and approach complex situations and problems.  And it is important to note that cognitive diversity has nothing to do with age, ethnicity or gender 

According to the HBR article, teams that demonstrated diversity in these areas consistently outperformed other teams, regardless of any other traits.  Cognitive diversity also has nothing to do with where someone goes to school, how they were raised, the culture they grew up in or social conditioning 

Why Does Cognitive Diversity Lend Itself to Better Performance? 

When you have a team that is made up of people who approach problemsolving differently, it seems on the surface that it could end in disaster. However, cognitive diversity isn’t about personalities. It’s about striking a balance between what we know and what we don’t know and understanding how both are valuable and useful. As individuals apply their specialized expertise and give others space to apply theirs, creative problem solving naturally follows.  

Think about teams in your own organizations. The ones who are least effective likely to exhibit low cognitive diversity. When everyone on a team thinks the same way, it can be impossible to solve new challenges. When everyone on a team thinks differently, new ideas are born, built on and refined until a solution is uncovered. So while hiring for outward diversity is still extremely important, it’s worthwhile to consider cognitive diversity, as well.  

Hiring For Cognitive Diversity  

Hiring for cognitive diversity can be a challenge because this is a relatively new theory that has yet to be tested and proven on a large scale. But it does stand to reason that just as you want outwardly diverse employees, you also want inwardly diverse employees. If you are looking for talented engineers who can help your organization achieve its goals, contact the experts at Selectek today.