Diversity of Thought

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Neural pluralism and divergent thinking are two scientific ways of saying Diversity of Thought.  It is the ability to analyze any problem from a variety of different angles.  Cartesian Logic is “doubt” about the truth of one’s beliefs, so it may appear to us as argumentative; however, that would be a cultural misperception.  It is the hallmark of the French communication style, stemming from René Descartes – a French philosopher/mathematician who used logical skepticism to uncover truth from false claims.  Below are some examples of Diversity of Thought, and a corporate example of what happens when there is a lack of diversity.

POLITICS

Abraham Lincoln’s ability to deal with competing viewpoints made him a remarkable president.  He gained this ability by intentionally filling his cabinet with those who had polar extreme ideologies.  For example, anti-slavery crusaders, like Secretary of State William Seward (who was criticized for purchasing Alaska as “Seward’s Folly”), were forced to work with slave owners, like Attorney General Edward Bates.  Lincoln always encouraged vigorous debate and discussion.  The initial perception of Lincoln by his cabinet was that this style was un-presidential, since he appeared indecisive to invite such opposing perspectives.  However, they soon came to understand that Lincoln’s receptivity of vastly different ideas was an enormous asset.

AUTOMOTIVE

During the height of its success, former General Motors Chairman, Alfred P. Sloan, once adjourned a board meeting after it had barely begun.  He said, “Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here…Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”

AVIATION

Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) is a decision-making strategy designed to eliminate pilot error by mandating the multiplicity of viewpoints to weigh in on any given situation.  CRM was developed in the 1970’s, from an investigative study NASA conducted on an airplane crash that killed all passengers on board.  The pilot was not allowed to act as dictator of the aircraft.  This newly imposed structure had flight crews working together with the cockpit, in constant communication.  Dissent was obligatory if any member of the flight crew detected an error &/or erroneous judgment. Everyone was held accountable for safety issues.

HEALTHCARE

Many hospitals have realized that an inclusive work environment and explicit expectation of all surgical team members to address all concerns to the attending surgeon can prevent surgical mistakes.  Post-operation debriefings are held where each surgical team member has a platform to share his/her view of the surgery.  At one hospital, with as little as six months of training, hospital staff members rose from 29% to 86% in their comfort level of questioning the doctors’ decisions.  Consequently, this behavioral change resulted in a dramatic decrease in medical malpractice, a malady that is driving doctors (perfectionistic by trade) to leave their institution and even their field.

LACK OF DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT

A false consensus produces a group of losers.  Conformity is the key ingredient for failure.  One CEO created a “corporate strategy,” and he told his Senior Leaders that they could either sign his corporate strategy in agreement and support; or, they could leave the company.  What do you suppose his well-paid executives decided to do in the middle of an enduring economic recession?  Naturally, this company has not only had 7 consecutive years of lay-offs and a visit by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), but suffers from high turnover, due to inconsistent and contradicted values, inauthentic leadership, lack of transparency, and a heavy dose of social politics.  The ship is sinking and the CEO is getting away from it in a speed boat with hoards of cash and stock options.

Who’s the captain now?

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG.  Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.

©Rossina Gil, 2014

 

Resources:

Doris Kearns Goodwin,Team of Rivals

Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide

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About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on March 30, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner, Think Like a Freak, pg 167: Anyone willing to think like a Freak will occasionally end up on the sharp end of someone else’s stick. Perhaps you’ll raise an uncomfortable question, challenge an orthodoxy, or simply touch upon a subject that should have been left untouched.

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