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September 6th, 2021 · 4 min read

Cognitive diversity: The diversity your company isn't thinking about

Written by: Izabelle Hundrev

What is cognitive diversity?

Examples of cognitive diversity in the workplace

Education experience

Cultural background

Why cognitive diversity is important

The importance of cognitive diversity in the workplace


How cognitive diversity contributes to company culture

How to foster cognitive diversity in the workplace

  • Hire for skills and competencies
    When you include specific degree or education requirements in job postings, it instantly limits the number of job candidates you have access to. These people may have all of the skills and experience necessary to do the job, but their educational background keeps them from being considered. Taking a skills-based approach to hiring gives you access to a wider pool of talent, which naturally enhances your chances of finding candidates from diverse backgrounds.
  • Look for candidates that are a culture add, not a culture fit
    Consider hiring job candidates that are a culture add, instead of a culture fit. This means looking for talent that brings in a fresh perspective, instead of people who share similar ideas as the employees already on the team. A culture add is a job candidate that isn’t afraid to ask hard questions or scrutinize existing practices — after all, this is how some of the most innovative ideas come to life.
  • Provide employees with continuous learning opportunities
    Continuous learning is the fuel that keeps your employees constantly innovating, problem-solving and developing new ways of thought. Evaluate your current employee education and learning programs through this lens. Are you providing learning options that foster diverse thinking?
  • Create a safe working environment that allows cognitive diversity to flourish
    To achieve true cognitive diversity in the workplace, it has to be authentically integrated into all aspects of company culture. Employees should feel free and safe to share ideas, criticisms and suggestions for alternate routes. In practice, this means providing meeting spaces or open forums where employees feel comfortable speaking up and are encouraged to think outside the norm.
  • Seek external expertise and training
    Cognitive diversity doesn’t always need to come from within your company. Consider bringing in outside experts to facilitate workshops or projects that help facilitate innovative thinking within your organization. Diversity of thought acts as a competitive advantage for many businesses, allowing them to be flexible, innovative and in a state of accelerated growth. With this in mind, take a look at your existing DEI efforts and evaluate where cognitive diversity should fit into the picture.

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