Cognitive Diversity


Discussions around equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDI&B) have been high on the agenda of human resources teams, organisational leaders and boards for some time, the importance of cognitive diversity has often been overlooked or misunderstood. While many organisations have been busy ticking the diversity box by extending opportunities to traditionally under-represented groups the underpinning rationale for this is often missed.

It’s entirely correct that we should be questioning why many organisations are flagging regarding the representation of women, but broader diversity must be the end game. Boards and other leadership structures must represent the communities they serve, and this suggests that the ‘future board’ is needed now.

While organisations struggle with a new normal of continual change, disruptive emergent business models and critique of the very notion of the corporate structure, and as we stride headlong into industry 4.0, the need for different ways of thinking, working and behaving has rarely been more pressing.



“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

– Theodore Roosevelt


While a datacenter business may cultivate some kudos by hiring more women, for example, getting more women into traditionally male dominated roles is not the end goal.

Real value is generated from cognitive diversity – the heterogeneity of knowledge and intellectual perspectives that comes from different life experiences and socio-cognitive variables like gender, cultural background, age, nationality or even occupational expertise. Research indicates that just getting more under-represented groups into a workplace is not going to deliver the benefits of diversity unless the organisation is able to identify, understand and leverage the value of cognitive diversity and generate a culture of belonging as an antecedent to improved innovation, creativity and effective problem solving.

Cognitive diversity encompasses various dimensions, including: 

      • Cognitive styles
      • Knowledge and expertise
      • Problem-solving approaches
      • Communication styles

So, forget the box-ticking often associated with surface-level EDI initiatives and get thinking about how systems, processes and culture can support diversity of thinking.

Get in contact if you would like to discuss how we can help you.