How Cognitive Diversity Benefits Your Organization

Creative solutions. Fresh perspectives. New energy. These are all things you want from your employees and from your organization as a whole. In hiring, more HR teams are discovering the benefits that bringing a greater diversity in age, gender, ability, and ethnicity to your organization can have. To name just a few: diverse organizations embrace a greater number of perspectives, exhibit more creative problem-solving, and have the ability to engage a broader audience. A mix of different viewpoints allows your team to tackle a problem from different angles and come up with the best solution.

What is Cognitive Diversity?

Cognitive diversity encompasses the same principle, but emphasizes the inclusion of individuals who think differently or process information differently than neurotypical individuals. If you consider Autism Spectrum Disorder, for instance, this is a disorder that has been on the rise over the past several decades, currently affecting 1 in 68 people, according to Scientific American. While it can encompass a broad range, common characteristics of the disorder have to do with social skills and communication, and many autistic individuals excel in other areas like numbers or pattern recognition. These individuals may have a range of skills to bring to the workplace, but may be weeded out during the interview process for issues like not making good eye contact.

Social interaction is not always the main skill needed for a position, yet all jobs require the interview process, favoring individuals with social skills. The IT world in particular has currently embraced this group, alongside programs and advocacy groups like Autism at Work. One study from 2015 shows a link between creativity and autism. Embracing cognitive diversity can increase creativity within your organization by hiring workers who literally think differently.

Avoiding groupthink

You might consider the “corporate culture” of your organization as an integral part of the job, especially during the hiring process. We ask questions like: is this person the right fit? But maybe that’s the wrong question. Seeking a new employee with a similar business style may yield employees with similar backgrounds and experiences—even your talent pipelines, like alumni organizations, can provide a level of uniformity, if you don’t actively attempt to diversify your hires.

Above all you want to avoid groupthink, a rationalizing and natural tendency of people to conform to groups. Your hiring practices can affect the organization overall when ideas and decision-making become top-down and individuals self-censor their good ideas if they challenge the status quo. Similarly, if you have a group of individuals who all hail from the same university, for example, they may work well together but may think too similarly to reach the best ideas. The “competition of ideas” offered by a more diverse workforce will ensure that you’re not sticking with the same old practices.

Fostering inclusivity

Inclusivity and flexibility within your organization has benefits to all employees. Non-neurotypical individuals may require accommodation and your current hiring practices may need adjustment—like establishing better interview practices for candidates with ASD or social anxiety. When you truly embrace different forms of communication and encourage the sharing of ideas, that creates an atmosphere where all employees feel comfortable sharing. If ideas are left to the most vocal few, you are missing out on a lot of ideas. The corporate culture that embraces inclusivity benefits neurotypical and non-neurotypical individuals alike by fostering ideas rather than stifling ideas.

Improving your company’s image

Inclusivity is attractive for employees of the Millennial generation, but also among clients and customers. Being an inclusive and diverse workplace presents your organization as ethical, embracing of the diverse culture that is the world, and better able to reach a broader audience.

It can’t simply be boiled to: what do we get out of this? You’ll actually be making a better model for employment for other organizations when you embrace diversity in all its forms. It’s not just about having a better brand—it’s about actually doing better in the world.

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