How many times have you been in a meeting when someone says, “That’s a great idea, you should do something with that”? Then what happens? Nothing. Sure, we all recognize that we should act and create strategies for change. Most people just don’t trust themselves enough to take the first steps and define their strategies since this is the basis for accountability. They would rather be held accountable to others’ expectations than their own.
Or consider this: During times of adversity, how often does your gut tell you to be courageous and act and you don’t? During times of prosperity, how often does your gut tell you to be courageous and act and you don’t? Good times, bad times, it doesn’t matter. You wait until those around you begin to take the actions that you were hesitant to take. All leaders need to develop an ability to take calculated risks by seeing around the corners up ahead.
But they don’t, because they lack diversity of thought.
Truth is, all companies are more like-minded than they think: Organizations must embrace diversity of thought to truly discover new ways of doing things and successfully lead through change. Diversity of thought teaches you how to welcome change in order to evolve.
This is why when I’m working with clients and they start moving down a path of likeminded-ness I often purposely create tension in the room and move them away from what makes them most comfortable and consider uncomfortable truths. Whatever their people are considering – from competitive threats to global sales strategies – I want to see how the people in the room respond when there is genuine discomfort. That’s because when people get inspired too quickly, that inspiration has the power to promote like-mindedness and create a culture that wants everybody to act the same. Get excited too quickly everyone begins to see the same opportunity not the one that is less obvious. This is why leaders need to counterbalance the enthusiasm – not push people away from being inspired but present a perspective that stretches their thinking and allow the group to see things they didn’t see before. They further open their minds and become even more vulnerable to see the truth.
Diversity of thought should be our single most powerful competitive advantage in our workgroups and organizational teams. Problem is diversity – the word and the concept – is not only unhelpful as a solution, but also extraordinarily confusing and divisive. For example, there can be no doubt we are already a diverse or multicultural society, yet when it comes to inclusion in business and beyond, talking about diversity typically promotes and results the exact opposite of inclusion: marginalization and victimization. That’s why the conversation about diversity has not evolved – and this is true not just about the conversations surrounding diverse populations but all people: They have become dialogues around like-mindedness rather than the power of their individual contributions.
For example, when we put words (e.g., Hispanic, Millennial, LGBT, etc.) in front of people, we think more about the words and less about the people. These words close our minds to embracing how people communicate differently and we push those people and their differences to the margin. As a result, diversity as currently defined in the workplace and marketplace is solving for the wrong things and those silos between groups are widening. We need to change the conversation and get beyond diversity. What we need to do is embrace diversity of thought.
The wise leader discovers like-mindedness through the differences in others and can thus see and seize opportunities more quickly to drive growth, strengthen one’s competitive advantage, and create distinction in the marketplace.
Here are nine signs that you aren’t embracing diversity of thought:
Allow diversity of thought to touch your business and leadership every day and serve as your competitive advantage to stimulate new growth, attract new talent, and generate new marketplace opportunities. Only then can will you take steps in the right direction to move beyond compliance to commitment – from substitution to evolution.
Think you are embracing diversity of thought? I invite you to take my diversity of thought assessment here and find out.