Diversity of thought moves diversity beyond the traditional, and badly needed, focus on the obvious external factors of diversity. Indeed, such was the scale of the task and the resistance to change, almost a quarter way through the 21st century it feels like we have truly only begun to scratch the surface on true diversity and inclusion.

The more diverse a group is in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, country or culture of origin and many other axes the more likely it is to offer some level of diversity of thought. And yet, these external markers offer little assurance as to how a person thinks.

For example, if a company hires a series of people who studied under the same professor at the same university, no matter how diverse their backgrounds, how diverse would you expect their thinking to be? At the very least it is something to question rather than assume.

Similarly, how many people do you know who have been hired because of what they question as opposed to what they know? This bias inevitably skews the cognitive landscape as do many other biases. The key question then becomes What isn’t being questioned? What is the group assuming to be true?

This becomes particularly acute as we move up organisations. In fact, at board level there seems to be a major tendency to hire people with similar executive journeys. Why not bring in more academics? Sportspeople? Coaches? Creatives?

So, a challenge for Board Chairs:

  • How do you ensure you have diversity of thought?
  • And in a world of metrics, how do you even measure this?
  • What methodologies or tools might be used?

The key challenge perhaps is that, because it is less visible, less value is placed on diversity of thought. There are no government mandates requiring certain percentages of board members with specific ways of seeing the world or of processing information. And yet, despite being largely invisible, it may be an untapped source of value for many organisations.

Questions in the Image:

  • How do I measure diversity of thought?
  • How do I even recognise it?
  • In truth, what value do I see in it?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse by Alison Reynolds and David Lewis (link to HBR.org). This fascinating article explores cognitive diversity and shows how higher cognitive diversity correlates with higher group performance.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – the fading daylight prompts me to ask What might be fading from my life? In the same way as we let go of each day What might we let go of in our lives? I always find that transitions – beginnings and endings in particular – are wonderful inspiration for such clearing out.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.