“In problem solving a tough strategic issue, the key is to understand the problem fully and to then interpret different ideas for solving it. No one knows how everything works, but together, teams can piece together knowledge, insights and formulate new choices. Just one good idea amongst the team means success for everyone. This is where difference – cognitive difference – really comes to bear. Each of us brings something distinct to any situation – it’s a function of your history, experiences, visions, and hopes that only you have. I call this cognitive difference Onlyness. It is central to how value creation happens in our time. People are not cogs to be used and dispensed as they were in the industrial era, but the very source of value creation in modern information-driven economies. Boards of course face tough and complex challenges with elusive answers but often the key is in framing the problem and interpreting options, and this is where cognitive diversity is vital.
In Scott Page’s words, the value of diversity is a proven mathematical truth, not a feel good mantra.
But… when confronted with someone who looks or acts different from “us,” many have a tendency to recoil. Difference is uncomfortable. It can be triggered by many identity markers — race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status (or, really anything) – but difference nearly always activates the ‘this requires new effort” muscle. Engaging with difference requires you to step outside your comfort zone, to see some perspective different from your own as equally valid. Put practically, it causes you to slow down to explain yourself, or to understand anew. This truth was evident even with leaders seeking to grow, to include, and to listen for ideas.
If boards are not embracing diversity despite research proving its value, they must be sacrificing performance for comfort.”