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Say What?

3 people enjoying cocktails and drinking body shot only

Over the weekend I went away with some girlfriends; shopping, spa, fabulous food and drink. Like most other times when I’ve been away for a night with the girls, we had lots of fun.

The weekend reminded of two important things that I think you can apply to the workplace.

  1. It is so important to laugh, don’t take yourself too seriously.

  2. The people you surround yourself with are vital to your happiness.

I have quiet an eclectic group of girlfriends from all walks of life. From my oldest friends who remember the me from our very first jobs together nearly 30 years ago to the newest who I’m just getting to know today. What we have in common are a shared set of values and a true belief that most people in life a ‘good’, doing their best to make a positive difference in whatever way they can.

More interesting though; the people I really love spending time with are those that challenge me. Those that make me think about my opinions/knowledge in a different way. I’ve always sought out people who think differently to me, believing they know something more than I do. I actively encourage debate and conversation with those individuals that see things very differently from myself to see what I can learn. (May be that I why I’m such an avid reader of business books – I want to know what others think.)

On Saturday night my girlfriends and I had a conversation that made me think differently. It was challenging, frustrating and great! Thanks Girls. (Still thinking about the points this morning.)

I try to replicate this tendency in my business life too. Always believing that the most successful teams are the ones that can work well together whilst seeing the world differently. Diversity is important but it’s not just about race, age or gender. Thinking differently and having different perspectives are key.

In business teams this is referred to as cognitive diversity — “defined as differences in perspective or information processing style,” is seen as vital to successful teams.

Having a team full of cognitive diverse people not only helps with keeping biases in check, (making individuals in the team question their assumptions), it also improves the problem-solving capabilities of the team (quicker, more fact based and more creative.)

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” — Sundar Pichai.

Sketch of a house 3D vector

It’s like looking at a building from all sides not just the front. That way you get the whole picture. EG - If you took your team outside, all stood together as one and looked at the building across the road. You would see one perspective: probably the front view. If I asked you all to describe or draw the building, we’d get similar pictures across the team.

However, if you asked your team to meet you outside as they arrived at the office first thing in the morning; coming to the office from wherever they lived. They would probably arrive from different directions and stand in different places. If we asked them to describe or draw the building after that exercise you would get multiple perspectives. Probably more of a 360-degree view with more detail. You would learn more about the building.

I believe in business it is important to see things that others might miss. If you want to see the whole picture… grab people to be on your team that think and see things differently from yourself. Make it safe for them to speak up, listen and then celebrate the differences.

Even if you don’t have a team at work, you can surround yourself with diverse thinking. Check out a different podcast, join a different networking group. Keep questioning yourself and finding value others’ opinions, especially when they differ from your own.



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