Our personality is the combination of biological and cultural experiences, which is why people from different backgrounds can offer creativity in problem-solving and innovation.
So, what are some of the benefits for leaders in embracing cognitive diversity within their teams?
Most teams will already have some form of diverse thinking in their teams. Being mindful of that mix and creating an inclusive culture that embraces ideas is essential for staff retention, innovating and remaining competitive. For example, sales leaders report that customer service complaints are resolved more efficiently in cognitively diverse teams by providing more creative approaches to resolving problems. Equally, project managers benefit from having a wider range of technical and creative inputs from their team when generating ideas for improving processes, overcoming obstacles and meeting deliverables with minimal costs and maximum yield.
Through the years, we have talked to different types of leaders in our Leadership Workshops. We share the benefits leaders experience through embracing cognitive diversity as well as a strategy to do so in this article.
Harnessing cognitive diversity as a leader
For leaders in general, cognitive diversity can be used to address the increasing pressure to innovate, retain staff and remain competitive in constantly changing global markets. This sounds simple enough, but what does that actually mean for you as a leader? What do you actually need to do to get these benefits?
The first step in creating a cognitively diverse team is positioning your attitude towards it so that these values start to take hold in your environment and your organisation.
This means that your intention needs to be more than a memo. It needs to be communicated to middle managers and your team so that everyone understands the aim and implements it sustainably. Naturally, people with diverse thinking can create discomfort within the organisation as the status quo is challenged and ways of doing things are driven to change. So, you will need a strategy in place to empower leadership to manage the disruption and ultimately reap the benefits of working with a diverse range of thinkers.
Let’s look at two more specific management scenarios and what cognitive diversity means in that context: Sales managers and project managers and their teams. Sales, as well as projects, are fast-paced, competitive and highly measured work environments. Being competitive, innovative and excellent in problem-solving are vital for these teams and their managers.
Cognitive diversity in the context of sales
Sales leaders live to motivate their team in order to achieve stretch targets, meet Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and maintain highest customer satisfaction. Sales teams struggle with high turn-overs, rivalry and silo-ed thinking. Leaders report that as the team is tuned into the different personalities within and outside their organisation they become better observers and listeners; Customer relationship improves; The team is able to increase cross-sales, resolve complaints more innovatively, handle objections more attentively, and increase the overall performance. Training your staff and your leaders in understanding, managing and embracing cognitive diversity is, therefore, a tangible competitive advantage for sales leaders.