For over 30 years NASA had been working on trying to predict solar particle storms in order to protect their astronauts from its harmful effects. They went ahead and posted the problem on InnoCentive’s website, a platform for crowd sourced innovation. Within weeks of posting it, a retired telecommunications engineer, with no expertise in space research or astrophysics, came up with an algorithm that was able to accurately predict solar storms.
More often than not, solutions to very complex looking problems come from people remotely associated with it, and that’s why cognitive diversity is so important in today’s rapidly changing world.
Cognitive diversity is all about bringing together people with different minds and thoughts. Any form of diversity that you bring to your workplace, be it gender, race, or demographic, directly contributes to your organization’s cognitive diversity. The phrase “great minds think alike” can turn out to be an act of folly in today’s world.
Large companies clearly understand the importance of cognitive diversity. For example, after Arthur Sadoun took over as the CEO of Publicis Groupe, one of the programs he is aggressively driving is called Marcel, an AI based platform that aims to tap into the rich & diverse talent pool of 80,000 employees across 200 disciplines.
In today’s world the emphasis is on how creatively we are able to strategize and solve problems; it’s no longer about putting in more money or muscle. And cognitive diversity is key to any creative solutioning.
Advertising agencies & sales teams have long known the benefits of cognitive diversity. If you’ve been at one, you know how meticulously they put together a solution team with the right cognitive mix that can pitch to a client or come up with the most innovative and creative solutions to the client’s problem.
Cognitive diversity is also important as companies scramble to make their workplaces more open and inviting to the millennials and centennials, who very soon will constitute the biggest section of any organization’s workforce. Both millennials and centennials have grown up in environments where diversity of thoughts & actions is celebrated and the need to stand out in the crowd and make an impact is high. They will struggle to fit into a workplace where everybody is expected to think and behave in a certain way.
Under the pretext of cultural fitment, many hiring managers have knowingly or unknowingly hampered induction of individuals with different ways of thinking into their organization. While culture is important to every organization, having a culture that encourages cognitive diversity is now equally important.
As companies embark on the journey of hiring people with diverse thoughts, it will soon become evident that they will need to re-think the ways of how they manage and promote such people. A normalized scale may not be the right way to measure and compare an individual’s performance and growth. Managers leading such diverse teams will also need to learn how to handle and channelize such differences in thoughts and opinions into constructive actions.
We are now aggressively moving towards a world wherein a major chunk of the work we do and the decisions we make will be aided by Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning machines. The ability to teach these machines effectively and ensure they have a ‘holistic’ learning will solely depend on a team that’s as cognitively diverse as possible.