The Better Work Project: Cognitive Diversity

10 June

How do we create teams that have diversity of thought to maximise the collective intelligence of our teams? In this podcast we dive into why diversity of thought is important, why it's hard and why you should choose to do it despite the discomfort.



  • Cognitive diversity looks into how you think and process information.
  • It’s important that we build our teams with as much cognitive diversity as possible, so we don’t keep doing the same things over and over again.
  • Cognitive diversity can be based on background, education and experiences.
  • We tend to connect with people that are like us, like-mindedness makes us comfortable, but it can exacerbate cognitive bias and lulls us into a false sense of security.
  • Facebook is a good example of this.
  • People are drawn to people they like and get on with, but this isn’t always conducive to change.
  • You have to be uncomfortable to grow. We have to learn how to be uncomfortable.
  • When we get into a cognitive diverse team the forming, storming, norming, performing process can take a bit longer.
  • Over time you’ll move through the process more quickly. You want to be able to accept rather than defend your way of thinking and try and move forward.
  • Leaders need to truly lead in the storming phase – this is the difference between leadership and management. Positive storming can occur, but you need to establish trust and cohesion.
  • It’s important to be authentic and honest about limitations.
  • We’re not trained to deal with people different to ourselves.
  • A lack of identity diversity does breed a lack of cognitive diversity.
  • It can be a learned trait. You can’t train other people to be different. You can only change the way you view the world and others. You can influence others.
  • We look at continuous improvement metrics, but we often don’t spend time reviewing our beliefs and where they might be broken. It’s only doing this work that a change can be made.
  • Cognitive diversity drives growth and learning.
  • We often hire for experience and certification to show someone can do something, but you need to look into that to see how people get things done. It’s important to see how people can stretch themselves.
  • Cultural fit comes from telling people who you are and allowing a level of self-selection in the recruitment process to that businesses cultural style. It differs from cognitive diversity.