Stanford University: Cognitive Diversity Drives Creativity

I’ve been looking at Stanford University’s research on cognitive diversity and its impact on creativity.  In short, the conclusion is that cognitive diversity produces the most innovative solutions.

What is diversity? The researchers at Stanford Business school say, “People tend to think of diversity as simply demographic, a matter of color, gender, or age. However, groups can be disparate in many ways. Diversity is also based on informational differences, reflecting a person’s education and experience.” (See the article here.) Our CEO peer group is predicated on the idea of getting a diverse group together.

Diversity = creativity. The researches found that groups with a diverse makeup had better performance when doing creative tasks. That’s good news for people who are in peer groups seeking creative advice.  In the groups I’ve been around there has been an abundance of diversity.  That means that the topics we discuss are reviewed from a variety of perspectives.   Think about it:  you’re in a room with 12 to 15 people with very different backgrounds.   You’re bound to find someone with a perspective that is different than yours.

Importance of candor. Having a different perspective won’t do you any good if no one says anything.  Fortunately, trust is high in our group.  It’s not at all unusual to hear one member say to another, “Well, I’m not so sure.  I have a different perspective on that.”  I love that kind of candor. (For more on balancing curiosity and candor, see what Craig Weber has to say here.) This is were the true value lies for a CEO presenting a new idea or struggling with a decision.  You want to hear the opinion that no one else is going to tell you.

More on this topic soon.

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