Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Praise of ‘Diversity in Thought’

At ultimate level, diversity means the color of character and diversity of thought. 

Expanding the definition of diversity to include the diversity of thought would be helpful to expand the critical thinking and creative thinking that should go in current digital climate. Critical thinking is important to make effective decisions in today’s digital ‘VUCA’ –Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous environment. And creative thinking is the fountain of innovation which is the living water every business is pursuing. From a team perspective, the “diversity in thought’ is the seed to grow trees of both critical thinking and creative thinking, for the sake of decision right and innovation as well.

Diversity in thought’ is the gold nugget to be found in embracing diversity at the digital era: Especially, at the command-control industrial era, when conformity to expectations is very highly valued, and independent thinkers are seen, by default, as trouble makers. Because, at traditional settings, when the human mind perceives the thought differences, an unconscious signal goes off that often sets the mind into a defensive mode of self-protection. If one’s unconscious mind is in self-protect mode, then respect for differences will not automatically occur. Digital now opens the new window to see through the complexity from the different angle, based on the latest social collaboration tools and technology maturity, optimistically, the digital nature of hyperconnectivity and cross-boundary collaboration can stimulate the next level of ‘diversity in thought.’

Collegiality does not mean the absence of differing opinions: If collegiality means 'conflict avoidance,' it can lead to inauthentic relationships and put the kibosh on innovation. If the shared goals are promoting the well being of the organization and stakeholders, then bringing a dissenting view to the table, in an attempt to promote those, is far more respectful than telling someone what they want to hear, especially if the main goal is servicing the ego of the other person. Even amongst a collegial group, sharp differences can arise. That does not mean respect for the differing opinions does not exist. Collegiality and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive. One can think critically, disagree, and offer a contrasting opinion, and so on, all while remaining collegial. A lot of it boils down to tone, to one's ability to convey a desire to learn, not a desire to win, in difficult and high stakes discussions.

Many factors affect the critical thinking of the team: The sources of power and influence, corporate culture, risk, scope and impact of the decision not only on the company but on one's own influence, credibility, and career. When collaborating and attempting consensus, there is a point in which ideas need to be properly evaluated and "critiqued." But in the critiquing, the focus is on the ideas, not the person who offered it, and it needs to be measured against the goal that they are trying to achieve.- where sharing knowledge and insight comes from colleagues ‘Thoughtful candor' is offering a different way of thinking about a situation or problem that moves the conversation forward. It can promote collegiality but not at the expense of good critical thinking. It is the idea that "dialogue" is a companion skill necessary for thinking critically among people with differing opinions, "finding the holes" or "proving the negative" to advance thinking. Perhaps the underlying belief is that through this debate 'all boats rise' rather than an end in a zero sum game.

The key is respectEveryone has an opinion about something. Having an open mind is critical within itself. This is where the authentic relationship comes into play. Having a relationship based on mutual- respect validates others' views. The relationship requires certain behaviors that civility demands. Respect the person while challenging their position on an issue is important to stimulate critical thinking, and it is the time in praise of ‘Diversity of Thought.


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