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Mining the Genius of Inclusion

It might seem obvious that diverse groups are more intelligent than homogeneous groups and numerous studies support this notion. So why do we so regularly turn to our same "go-to" people over and over again?

Simple answer, it's more comfortable and because we believe doing so provides more consistent results.

The challenge? Consistency isn't always what's needed.

A variety of studies indicate that diverse groups actually solve problems better and have better predicative abilities than homogeneous groups by a considerable margin. And, even if we think our "go-to" people comprise a diverse group, after a while we all tend to drift towards "group-think."

When working with groups around this idea, we intentionally couple the words “genius” and “inclusion” to indicate just how powerful it can be to expand our comfort zone and welcome more diversity (and fresh input from those outside our normal group).


Because real brilliance often emerges from the least expected direction. We tell several success stories about this in our book, Thriving in Business and Life.

At the end of Chapter Eight, which is all about inclusion, we provide three examples of the difference between thriving and surviving, relative to this topic. First, many organizations continue to approach diversity as a potential liability and do only what is absolutely required by law or to avoid litigation.

This is a problem in and of itself, because it fundamentally ignores the value of diversity and, in so doing, deprives the organization of the full potential of group intelligence. This also shortchanges the contributions from those we are excluding.

What would a thriving approach to inclusion look like?

We would choose to see differences as assets (rather than liabilities) and seek to create more diverse teams and perspectives in order to optimize the cognitive and contextual diversity we have on-hand.

What research has shown (as in the studies conducted at the Kellogg School of Business, BYU, and Stanford University), cognitive and contextual diversity are most easily increased by upping the numbers of people on a team or project who are from diverse backgrounds, races, departments, levels, cultures, age ranges, and by increasing gender diversity.

If this increase in diversity is coupled with the power of inclusion (which is best fueled by a deep curiosity to learn and benefit from the breadth of perspectives present in diverse groups) a group’s true genius can be revealed.

Seems like a smart move to us!

Secondly, whenever we create a group of regular “go-to” people who think like we do, it may help us come to quick conclusions, but we are inevitably excluding others who see things differently. We may get our quick answer but is it the best one? How can we be sure if we are only accessing a fraction of the available insights and experience?

A thriving mindset inspires us to expand our team, actively pursuing inclusion by seeking diverse viewpoints all along the way, to create well-thought out solutions that have more group buy-in. This is how we build an effective team and this approach is, after all, at the heart of well-proven processes like Six Sigma and Learn Manufacturing. In fact, Roger Dougherty, one of the leaders of the Six Sigma movement, once wrote that it is virtually impossible to achieve Six Sigma without an effective use of diversity and inclusion.

This is why many effective teams and organizations have implemented what we refer to as an "inclusion inventory." How does it work?

When starting a project, working on a solution, or striving to better understand a problem, leaders or team members ask this question:

"Who else do we need to involve?"

This leads to a quick inventory of who will be impacted by the decision, who will have to implement it, who will need to communicate it, what people or groups have we left out of this conversation who might have an entirely different perspective? In other words, these teams are consciously and intentionally tapping into the genius of inclusion because it will help them make better decisions and more accurately assess the future. They then take steps to up their overall group intelligence by inviting such people into the process.

Here’s your Thriving tip for the week:

“Reach beyond your ‘go to’ group to include others you might usually overlook. Invite their input. Acknowledge their contribution.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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