What is cognitive diversity/Benefits/Challenges

Do you know what cognitive diversity means and its importance in companies? In language dictionaries, the term “cognitive” refers to the ability to acquire or absorb knowledge.

In the corporate environment, the concept is the same, with the advantage that, when applied, it provides a dynamic, innovative and open environment to the plurality of ideas. 

This content addresses the importance of cognitive diversity in organizations, its benefits and challenges. Here, we’ll talk about the relationship of this concept with behavioral mapping and how it can help discover talent whose cultural fit is compatible with the company. Follow up!

What is cognitive diversity

Cognitive diversity is characterized by the existence of people with different styles, personalities and origins living in the same environment or working on the same project. 

But although the profiles are diversified, individuals manage, together, to add competences, overcome obstacles and find new perspectives for old problems. 

For this, it is essential to connect organizational culture with diversified professional profiles and capable of proposing rich debates, thanks to intellectual, cultural and experience flexibility. 

In this sense, the search for cognitive diversity in the company must start in the recruitment and selection processes. Without failing to value the diversity that the organization already has in its staff.

Ideally, the organization should pursue two goals: demographic diversity and cognitive diversity. That’s because a demographically diverse work environment can become cognitively uniform.

Also, demographic diversity is a mix of characteristics related to statistics, such as gender or age. Cognitive diversity, on the other hand, is more subjective, as it represents a mixture of how people perform intellectual activities, make associations or draw conclusions.

Benefits of cognitive diversity

Different opinions must be considered and valued. Obviously, not all ideas will be taken advantage of, but they need to be heard so that managers can expand possibilities and change direction. 

Thus, maintaining a plurality of profiles, ideas and opinions is strategic for the company and healthy for employees. Now, learn about some benefits of cognitive diversity

Add soft skills little considered in selection processes

During the recruitment and selection stages, it is common to focus on relationship aspects such as empathy, flexibility and aptitude for teamwork.

But skills like analytical thinking, synthesis power, strategic thinking and the ability to handle information and data are soft skills that will come in the cognitive diversity package. 

In this sense, organizations that consider different ways of thinking will have new perspectives at their disposal and will be able to see opportunities and threats more easily. 

Solving old and new problems

It is not uncommon for companies to encounter the same obstacles in their processes, which leads us to believe that some problems are cyclical and always come back. Therefore, it is understandable that managers bet on the same solutions and strategies to solve everyday challenges.

Imagine that deadlock situation during a meeting when someone suddenly suggests an alternative. At this point, everyone is asking themselves “why didn’t we think about this before?”.

It is in this context that cognitive diversity makes a difference and offers new perspectives on old problems. Also, when an insight brings an innovative solution and an idea contrary to the majority, it is seen as viable by the leaders. 

This is perhaps the greatest benefit that cognitive diversity gives companies, the opening to new profiles, ideas and rich cultural backgrounds. In opposition to the professional profile plastered and incapable of “thinking outside the box”. 

Employee engagement

Managers who bet on and value teams with different profiles are richer in talent and achieve better results, achieving business success. 

However, some organizations are still not convinced of the importance of diversity and its potential to increase engagement and collaboration across teams. 

Cognitive diversity encourages the exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences. As a result, employees feel valued by managers and teams. As a result, there is an increase in self-confidence, satisfaction in working at the company and engagement among professionals to achieve the organization’s goals. 

Fostering critical thinking

When teams have similar profiles, it is conditioned that the ideas are similar and consonant. It is often a comfortable situation. On the other hand, opposing opinions, which apparently have no connection, become a fertile ground for the exchange of ideas. 

In this case, cognitive diversity provides rich debates and elaborate arguments. At the same time, it strengthens critical thinking. But for this scenario to develop harmoniously, the HR department needs to broker and set boundaries for healthy discussion. Therefore, opinions must have space to be presented, heard, debated and able to contribute in some way. 

Challenges of cognitive diversity

If there are advantages to promoting cognitive diversity in companies, there are also challenges. First, because diversity — or difference of opinion — can cause some tension.

Therefore, people management must understand that environments with a plurality of profiles, experiences and intellectual levels may indeed have divergences. However, this is natural and expected in this scenario. 

Another challenge presented by cognitive diversity is the fear that many professionals have in expressing opinions, precisely to avoid confrontations. But this attitude can configure an accommodation disguised as diplomacy. 

Thus, it is up to the leaders to find the best way to mediate the debates, considering respect, harmony and tolerance. 

Relationship of cognitive diversity to behavioral mapping 

Increasingly, the Human Resources area is applying the mapping of behavioral profiles to more easily identify the cognitive differences present in their teams. 

Therefore, it is important to collect data on the personality of all employees, regardless of hierarchical level. 

Thus, by knowing the style of each professional, how he influences and relates to others, the manager has a detailed diagnosis of the behavior, strengths and weaknesses of his followers.

Also, knowing your team makes it easier to keep your teams in harmony, even in the face of difficulties that may arise. In addition, it is important for the manager to provide constant feedback to convey the results of the behavioral mapping

This transparency allows employees to get to know each other better and have the freedom to express themselves and express opinions, as they feel that their way of thinking is understood and respected by everyone. 

In this way, the organization reaches a cognitively respectful and plural level. Even the diagnosis obtained with behavioral management allows leaders to apply the necessary changes to achieve better performances. 

It is noteworthy that, when valued, behavioral skills provide a more innovative work environment and attract professionals capable of questioning the company’s modus operandi . 

With the freedom to question the status quo , employees feel they can truly express themselves and work with more freedom and less psychological pressure, increasing productivity

In this contextcrisis management is another aspect related to cognitive diversity. In the field of human psychology, differences are generative in nature. That means they generate movement and change. And changes, in turn, cause discomfort. Therefore, just as HR needs to know how to mediate discussions, the sector must also deal with possible inconveniences that arise along the way.

Still, it is important to emphasize that cognitive diversity proposes an environment in which opposing opinions are heard, debated and, many times, accepted. This feature is antagonistic to a common trend today: polarization – represented by the division of a society into two poles regarding a given topic. 

Tips for involving leaders

Most of the time, Human Resources management needs to develop strategies to create and control an environment conducive to dialogue. In addition, it is also necessary to train leaders to accept that, in cognitive diversity, subordinates have the opportunity to suggest, criticize and opine.

Thus, when this happens, employees feel comfortable in an environment where mutual respect and psychological safety prevail. This is the first step in involving leaders. 

Furthermore, with a few tips, it is possible to build and implement this scenario of cognitive diversity in a gradual and solid way:

  • try to identify aggregating profiles that help to encourage plurality in the company. This can be done already in the selection steps;
  • replicate the previous strategy also internally, developing other leaders who have the same aggregating profile;
  • establish new communication rules during meetings and encourage arguments against what is unanimous. When possible, take turns conducting meetings;
  • develop different formats for meetings, for receiving suggestions and for decision making;
  • stimulate and strengthen the relationship between employees. Make room for harmony and safety in working together. These can be the key elements in awakening much needed self-confidence in debates. 

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