The Power of Diversity of Thought

Plenty of data shows how teams with more diversity outperform those with less. Sometimes we think this only relates to ethnic or gender diversity. True, who we are as people creates the lens through which we interpret situations and make decisions.

But what about deepening that lens to take into consideration diversity of thought?

Two powerful hidden biases are confirmation and affinity bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms or strengthens their beliefs or values, and is difficult to dislodge once affirmed. Affinity bias is the tendency to favor people who share similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences with us. We can create teams with ethnic and gender diversity that are still fraught with confirmation and affinity bias. 

Why does it matter? The busier we get, the more quickly we can make decisions. We might come to a hasty conclusion without thinking of different sides of an issue, or even consulting people who think differently. We don’t have time for a healthy debate, and we trust our “gut.”

The danger in this approach is that the biases are at work without us even knowing. We subconsciously seek out the easier paths, including to decision-making. It takes intentionality to create diversity of thought and surround ourselves with people who have different points of view.

On a macro scale, these tendencies turn quickly into groupthink: thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. 

I encourage you to surround yourselves and your teams with a healthy mix of people that approach the world differently.

As a leader, it can fill in dangerous gaps in our own perception and experience. As a society, it will help break down dangerous walls and build bridges instead.

Written by

Annette Gregg

Annette Gregg


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