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We have a Cognitive Diversity Problem

cognitive diversity

How can I better integrate cognitive diversity in business and in life

cognitive diversity

Affinity bias is the subconscious tendency to favor people who look, think, and act as we do. Attitudinal bias, on the other hand, is conscious bigotry.

I find that most people, outside of traditional bigots and woke bigots, recognize the benefits of diversity and take steps to reduce the impact of affinity bias.

The CEOs and leaders in this community (I admit there’s a selection bias of good people here) want a physically diverse workforce, so that race, gender, and other demographics reflect the community they are serving. The differences tend to be whether you hire to a particular outcome or look at representation and broaden your inputs as necessary.

Correcting for biological diversity is relatively straightforward, and decent people don’t need punitive and demeaning programming to figure it out.

Cognitive diversity (bringing together people who think differently) is a more daunting challenge because it’s difficult to see and recognize. A subconscious disdain toward people who think differently is commonplace because there’s comfort in the status quo, and leaders tend not to like boat-rockers.

Complacency is often the consequence of doing the same things repeatedly and expecting the same results. This problem affects businesses, governments, militaries, and nonprofits.

Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln valued cognitive diversity. His so-called team of rivals was a cognitively diverse crew. George Washington built his cabinet the same way, and Dwight Eisenhower picked people of varied observable contributions to be on his staff. Cognitive diversity plus buy-in for the common good made the whole more significant than the sum of its parts.

OK. I get why cognitive diversity is essential. How do I make it happen?

We created the PROM Archetypes TM to give you a helpful framework. Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks have distinct and observable contributions when using their natural talents. Representation from all four provides you with powerful advantages over organizations where everyone thinks alike. Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have cultivated cognitive diversity alongside other forms.

The PROM Archetypes TM gives you ways to recognize these distinct and observable contributions and help people be their best selves. Leaders not attuned to cognitive diversity will tend to select and promote people who think and act as they do — the mini-me syndrome (as my mentor Michele Flournoy calls it). This affinity bias turns off people who aren’t like you, and before long, they vote with their feet, and only the clones remain.

You can start building cognitive diversity by taking our PROM Archetypes TM quiz and having your team do the same. SLA’s content will help you make the best use of this information, and I or any SLA team member will be delighted to help you gain the cognitive diversity that’s right for you.

What action steps are you taking to promote cognitive diversity?

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