diversity

Thinking About Thought Diversity

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naderBy Nader Sleiman, Analyst

As our awareness of diverse identities and shifting cultural perspectives has grown, so has the expectation that organisations will adopt inclusive measures to ensure that this diversity is represented and empowered at all levels. Gender diversity, for instance, has developed into the inclusion of non-binary and trans individuals through such measures as training to reduce inherent biases in interviews, particularly unconscious gender and racial biases. Similarly, when addressing minority representation, the Equal Opportunity Act provided a framework for inclusive recruitment, such as removing pictures from CVs and accounting for diversity in selection. However, one form of diversity that has, so far, been side-lined is thought diversity.

What is thought diversity?

Natural differences in abilities are somewhat reflected in skills and competencies, but there is more to human beings than just what they know and what they can do. Thought diversity is all about how people think and work. Differences in work pace, development needs, feedback approaches, and rhythm of work all fall under thought diversity. Neurodiversity, which refers to the different ways the brain processes and interprets information, also falls within this area. Recognising thought diversity means accepting that every individual has their own approach to work because of who they are. It means allowing unique contributions from those who possess different points of view, which encourages people to understand and react to information in a fresh light.

How can we be more inclusive?

Without a talent vision that encompasses people’s differences, recruitment biases could hinder the attraction and selection of desired talent. Even internally, such talent could face opportunity limitations that would challenge their career growth. Because of their unique approach to work, employees who bring thought diversity could be perceived as a hindrance to organisational operations rather than added-value perspectives and working styles. Addressing these issues, therefore, is at the core of creating an inclusive environment that accommodates for the needs of this niche diversity group. Simple alterations can go far in this aim. What follows is a far from holistic list of possible suggestions, but it does provide initial steps to consider when aiming to recruit, select and develop thought-diverse-talent.

  1. Recruiting diversity: By understanding thought diversity and its significance, a diversity goal can be set with measurable KPIs. First, including thought diversity means that recruitment should involve a renewed focus on transferable skills. Your ideal candidate may come from a different industry and company size but possess the skills you need to get the job done. Such candidates can offer insights that you would not receive from someone who has worked in the same industry, company, and environment as your organisation. It is key to ask: ‘Does the candidate’s experience grant them the skills needed for the job?’

 

  1. Selecting thought diversity: The past decade has witnessed a monumental growth in how technology helps organisations attract talent. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has offered skill-based assessments that cross-compare profiles to roles based on identified skills. Gaming and virtual reality (VR) have provided industry giants with an unexpected recruitment tool that allows employers to gain additional insights into how candidates respond in different environments. However, organisations are not expected to spend a fortune on advanced technology to find the best fit for your roles; instead, organisations can focus on building a signature selection technique that is unique to their needs, values, and diversity goals. Using the thought diversity goal as a stepping stone, organisations can build their selection technique based on how they define their diversity needs and how far they are willing to invest in and recruit diversity candidates.

 

  1. Personalised Growth: The key to retaining thought-diverse individuals is not providing specific employees with privileges that others cannot enjoy; the key is providing a ‘menu’ of options for everyone to choose from. Flexible working arrangements, part-time work, job sharing, contractual and periodical work could all fall under the umbrella of such measures. From those measures, employees can build their own customised work and learning experience. Therefore, continuous learning can be achieved by engaging employees in deciding how they end up doing their jobs. It enables them to make individual development decisions and control their pace of work in ways that they would be unable to, otherwise. In that sense, organisations need to nurture those diverse candidates by providing this form of autonomy to co-create the culture and optimise the value that they bring. With the right leadership, the right policies, and the right people, organisations can harness the power of diversity in all its forms.

If you wish to learn more about how diversity and inclusion can be introduced into your talent strategy, please reach out to me. Your thoughts are always appreciated, so leave me a comment and let me know what you would like to see at your own organisation regarding thought diversity.

Three Perspectives on the Future of High Performance

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CHIt’s been one month since our Future of High Performance Masterclass and we’re excited to soon be sharing our Report with members of the Future of Work Research Consortium, which will present the key findings from our extensive research on this theme.  The Masterclass was packed full of insights, activities and opportunities to network and share good practices.  We had three fantastic guest speakers on the day, so here are my key takeaways from their insightful contributions.

Dr. Randall S. Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, spoke to delegates about the power of collaboration in high performance teams.  My favourite takeaway from Randall’s presentation was about how research shows that the best teams are the most diverse – but so are the very worst teams.  He argued that the key was in the management of these teams.  When diverse teams are managed well, members have access to a variety of sources of information and have opportunities to learn from each other and grow.  However, when teams are managed poorly, it gives rise to task conflicts (disagreements around the content of the work), relationship conflicts (personal disagreements) and process conflicts (disagreements about the logistics of getting work done).  Creating common understandings of problems, encouraging information sharing and promoting psychological safety and belongingness are a couple of ways to begin managing conflict and supporting high performance teams.

Tom Ravenscroft, founder and CEO of Enabling Enterprise, identified three major myths about human skills which need to be formally debunked.  The first is that these skills are innate and that there are some “natural” team players.  The second myth is that these skills are picked up by osmosis and simply “rub off” on people, rather than needing to be taught.  The third is that these skills lie latent and that, in the “right situation”, people will show these skills.  Organisations need to abandon these assumptions in order to make real progress towards building the skills of the future.

Lynda Gratton, Hot Spots Movement’s founder and CEO, told delegates about her main impressions from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this year – you can read her full blog for MIT Sloan here.  Lynda stated that one hot topic was that work is undergoing a major transition, as technology demands that people upskill and reskill more rapidly than ever before.[1]  At our Masterclass, one of our delegates asked Lynda a fascinating question: how can CEOs continue to be creative when they are under increasing pressure to take immediate action to address this transition in work?  Our research indicates that CEOs need the support of HR to look beyond the short term and develop a narrative on the future of work.[2]  By developing a point of view on learning and making their involvement and investment in learning initiatives a priority, they can help their people to develop the skillsets necessary to transform and adapt.

So, some key questions to consider when thinking about high performance in the long term are:

  • Am I building the uniquely human skills I will need to succeed in the future of work?
  • Am I harnessing the power of diversity in my team?
  • Does my CEO have a clear narrative on what our organisation will look like in the future and what we need to do and learn in order to get there?

As our definition of high performance changes, building our skillsets and prioritising our interpersonal skills and development will help us to become more future-proofed.  Drop me an email if you’d like to have a conversation about high performance at callandra@hotspotsmovement.com.


[1] Lynda Gratton, ‘Five Insights From Davos on the Future of Work’, MIT Sloan Management Review Blog (2019).

[2] FoW, Building Narratives on the Future of Work Masterclass Report (2018).

Do Diversity Statements Really Work?

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lottiehsmphotoWe are surrounded by pro-diversity messages today – from the #MeToo campaign, to the controversial Pepsi advert featuring Kendall Jenner – diversity, and the lack of it, penetrates every aspect of society.

We find here at HSM, that workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) is often the most pressing challenge for many HR executives, and it’s no surprise given that there are only 25 female Fortune 500 CEOs and three black Fortune 500 CEOs[1], and that just 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment[2]. Many organisations are trying to amend these inequalities not only because it has become socially unacceptable, but also because it has been evidenced that a diverse workforce can greatly benefit an organisation’s bottom line.

For example McKinsey has found that companies in the top quartile of ethnic and racial diversity were 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry competitors[3]. This clearly has huge appeal for organisations, yet there remains a significant gap between the rhetoric and the reality of diversity efforts today. In this post I will focus on how often well-intentioned organisations are unaware of how to make the leap from the rhetoric of aspirational diversity agendas, to creating a reality of a company culture that is truly diverse and inclusive.

One way in which companies try to incorporate a pro-diversity message within their organisation’s culture and values is by including diversity or equal employer opportunity (EEO) statements, or by creating lengthy and comprehensive D&I policies. It is sometimes assumed that by creating these statements or policies, they will automatically attract a more diverse applicant pool of talent, and thus a more diverse workforce, allowing them to benefit from all of the advantages of diverse workforces. However, research has shown that EEO and diversity statements are ineffective in bringing about actual change[4]. A recent World Economic Forum report claimed that although 97% of companies have diversity programs or statements in place, only 25% of employees from diverse groups believe that they have personally benefited from these initiatives[5].

So where can we go from here? Evidently employers still have a long way to go in fully addressing discrimination in organisations. Eliminating discrimination and working towards inclusivity needs to be made a regular part of the conversation in order to become a reality. For example, it could be a good starting point to ask employees what they think inclusion means, to ask them to share their experiences of feeling excluded, and to co-create with their employers the actions that would make the company more inclusive. The ideas and actions that come from these conversations can help bring your policy to life, as they truly come from the heart of your organisation and your people, those who will ultimately be responsible for implementing it.

This is something we have enabled clients to do, using our Collaboration Jams. These online, crowdsourced conversations enable thousands of employees to connect in a many-to-many conversation around the most pressing issues. Combined with expert facilitation, they make even the most sensitive topics safe to explore and provide leaders and HR teams with evidence-based solutions. Get in touch to find out more about how you can empower your employees to convert your diversity rhetoric into a reality.


[1] http://fortune.com/2017/06/09/white-men-senior-executives-fortune-500-companies-diversity-data/

[2] https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7540

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

[4] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000312240607100404

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/company-diversity-fatigue-no-excuse/

Gillette – A Lesson on Inclusion and Diversity for Organisations

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DTIt has been a week since Gillette released their new ‘The Best Men Can Be’ advert and the world of social media turned upside down. From ‘well done’ to decrying the advertisement as being biased against men, the comments and opinions kept flooding in. So — is Gillette’s ad biased against men, or highlighting needed social change? Perhaps both, but here is a third theory: it was our unconscious bias that made us feel one way or another.

The human brain is hard-wired to make hasty decisions that draw on a variety of assumptions and experiences. Consider this: we are exposed to as many as 11 million pieces of information at any one time, but our brain can only functionally deal with about 40.[1] To filter out all the remaining pieces of information, our brain develops a perceptual lens that only lets in certain things. On one hand, this prevents information overload, but at the same time, we are not subjective on our interpretation of what is in front of us.

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organisational culture as well. Unconscious organisational patterns exert an enormous influence over an organisation’s decisions, choices, and behaviours. These deep-seated company characteristics are often the reason that despite conscious efforts, organisations are failing to move the needle on inclusion and diversity. Even when leaders declare a commitment to fairness in their organisations, unconscious bias causes them to evaluate equal performers differently, as Emilio Castilla, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stephen Benard, of Indiana University, have demonstrated in their research on the “paradox of meritocracy.”[i]

So… Is diversity training the best an organisation can get?

Not really. According to the renowned behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman, it is very hard to eliminate our individual biases. Hundreds of studies have examined the relevance of interventions for reducing bias.[ii] It turns out that the positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance, with many participants actually reporting more animosity towards other groups afterward.

What is the way forward? Organisations should consider the approach known as choice architecture. This involves deliberately structuring how the information is presented: You do not take away the individual’s right to decide or tell them what they should do. You just make it easier for them to reach more rational decisions. For example, orchestras deployed this technique by using blind auditions in the 1970s.[iii] Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University and Claudia Golden of Harvard University have illustrated that this simple change played an important role in increasing the percentage of women in orchestras from 5% to almost 40% today.[iv] Organisations cannot easily put job candidates behind a curtain, but they can do a version of this with people analytics. For example, using software that allows recruiters to strip age, gender, educational and socioeconomic background information out of résumés so they can focus exclusively on talent.

How is your organisation overcoming unconscious biases? Is people analytics currently being utilising in hiring by your organisation? I would love to hear your insights on this very important topic. Email me at david@hotspotsmovement.com


[1] Ross, H. (2008). Proven Strategies for Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace. Cook Ross.

[i] Castilla, E. J., & Benard, S. (2010). The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(4), 543-676.

[ii]Levy Paluck, E., and Green, Donald P. (2009). Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 339-367. Retrieved from http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5186d08fe4b065e39b45b91e/t/51e3234ce4b0c8784c9e4aae/1373840204345/Paluck_Green_AnnRev_2009.pdf

[iii] Ibid.

[iv]Goldin, C. and Rouse, C. (2009, September). Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ‘Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians. Retrieved from

Click to access orchestrating_impartiality_the_effect_of_blind_auditions_on_female_musicians.pdf

Integrating your work and life identities

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CHWhen we meet people, we often think that we can tell a lot about them by the occupation they have.  “So, what do you do?” is probably the most common icebreaker I hear, as our work is often regarded as shorthand for explaining to people who we are.[i]  But our work identity is not our only identity.

No one person has a single identity; we all have talents, interests, relationships with others, causes we’re passionate about and worldviews that help to make us who we are. In order to embrace our authentic selves throughout our careers, the question researchers are now asking is how to balance the multiple identities that we have.  But, after exploring agile people strategies here at Hot Spots Movement, what I think we should be asking is how to integrate them.[ii]

We are increasingly moving away from the 9-5, from which people can clock off and assume their out-of-office identity.  With technology enabling a 24/7 culture and people demanding flexible, agile ways of working, our work and our personal lives are becoming more and more interwoven.  Instead of allowing our work to monopolise our time and become the core part of our identity (something psychologists call “work-role centrality”) or viewing our work as something that begins and ends and is entirely separate from other aspects of our lives, integrating our identities enables us to be our authentic selves at all times, living and working according to our values and passions.[iii]

The rise in thinking about work-life integration focuses on scheduling time to disconnect and break away from our desks at multiple points throughout the day to ensure that we are maintaining our vitality and sustaining our productivity.  Perhaps this can be as easy as using our lunch breaks more effectively, for example, to go to the gym, attend a lecture or catch up on that tv episode you missed.  It might be leaving work early to make sure you have dinner with your family or friends and making up that time at home later on.

To fully integrate our work-life identities, we should consider how to reignite or reinforce our connection with work.  Instead of perceiving work as something we have to switch off from, how can we make work more meaningful and more aligned with our other identities?

Firstly, we can seek out new projects.  When current work isn’t stimulating, we should find new ways to feed our intellectual curiosity.  Seeking new challenges and a greater variety within our working day may help us to gain a whole new perspective on what work means to us and what really holds our interest.  Similarly, pursuing new skills that we’re passionate about mastering or gain new knowledge on a topic we’ve always been interested in can raise both our engagement and sense of purpose at work.[iv]

Expanding our networks and meeting diverse people can introduce us not only to potential new friends but to potential new futures for ourselves, as these connections may be able to offer advice and guidance as we forge new career paths.  Attending external conferences, lectures and events, or reaching out to colleagues from different internal functions are simple ways to integrate our work with our other interests.

To stop your work identity from becoming your only identity, find ways to integrate and align your work with your passions, interests and talents.  To talk more about our identities at work, drop me an email at callandra@hotspotsmovement.com


[i] Al Gini, ‘Work, Identity and Self: How We Are Formed by the Work We Do’ (1998).

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/04/18/achieving-work-life-integration-in-this-new-world-of-work/#25377507fd9e

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/201302/you-are-not-your-job

[iv] https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/were-neurologically-programmed-dislike-work-heres-resetself/your-career/article/1456730

The Key to Shifting Cultures

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HM

The rapid pace of innovation and disruption means the average lifespan of organisations listed on the S&P has shortened from 60 years in the 1950s to just 18 years today. A significant shrink. As a result, many organisations face a regular battle to reinvent themselves, as well as shift their cultures to match the new reality.

We have recently explored this challenge with our Future of Work Research Consortium members in order to identify the enablers that can help organisations seeking to shift their cultures. Our research indicates that enabling workplace culture shift requires first and foremost an understanding and altering of micro-behaviours, specifically, negative types of micro-behaviours. Such micro-behaviours are thoughtless, unfair, often unintentional, and in dissonance with the environment organisations are looking to create. The collective practice of negative micro-behaviours can lead to the formation of toxic cultures.

How can organisations change negative micro-behaviours? Our research has revealed the effectiveness of nudging. Nudge theory is a concept in behavioural science where positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals. We’ve recently collaborated with Lisa Shu, Professor of Behavioural Economics at London Business School, whose research on nudge theory has shown that whether they intentionally chose this role or not, organisations are inadvertent architects of the decision-making of their employees, customers, and shareholders. However, whilst effective nudges do change the choice environment, the beauty is that they do not require a huge organisational change or intervention. For example, if an organisation were to be fostering a culture of sustainability, the company could put up a display showing the daily energy consumption at the workplace. This gentle nudge has shown to reduce energy consumption in workplaces, helping the development of a sustainable culture.

Another effective way to change negative micro-behaviours is through ‘change agents’, that is, those influencers within your organisation who can, because of their ‘knowledge, skills and position in the company network, and not their formal hierarchical power, shape the views of multiple colleagues’[1]. What we’re finding is that the behaviours of influencers have increasingly significant effect on the company population as a whole. Typically, due to more trust in influencers as relatable role models, employees are more likely to adopt the behaviours, values and attitudes practiced by these colleagues.

With many organisations facing the need to reinvent their culture, our advice to you is to think twice about implementing large-scale strategic programmes or initiatives. Instead look to the people within your organisation, and leverage their collective power through nudging and change agents to effect change.

Want to learn more about nudging and change agents? Reach out to me at harriet@hotspotsmovement.com and I’ll be happy to talk you through our research.

[1] Shu, L. Gino, F. Bazerman, M H., (2011) Ethical Discrepancy: Changing Our Attitudes to Resolve Moral Dissonance, Behavioral Business Ethics: Ideas on an Emerging Field. Taylor and Francis Publishing

 

A Year at Hot Spots Movement

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MF

Last month marked my first year of working at Hot Spots Movement and it’s been a fruitful year of learning where I have kick-started a career in Community Management and met some fascinating people.  I’ve grown to be immensely proud to work here and this anniversary is a great cause to look back at the past 12 months and share what I’ve learnt throughout our Future of Work Themes and showcase how our research is implemented into our own employee experience.

Shifting Identities

Within weeks of joining the company it was time for The Future of Work’s second Masterclass of the year, Shifting Identities. I had jumped into the deep end of the investigation into what  organisations need to do differently to exuberate their diversity  efforts and for me personally identifying as a multi-cultural person and having just left a property company (currently quite a non-diverse industry!), I felt an instant connection and sense of belonging. Throughout the theme, we explored the need to rethink and engage the multiple identities of employees over time, such as dual-career couples, parents and older workers. As the months went on and we taught and consulted companies on how to move the needle in these key areas of inclusion and diversity, I soon witnessed the same practices being applied here and discovered how we foster our own constantly shifting identities – and there are many! We have a new mother, a new husband, a new charity owner, new homeowners, new graduates, multiple nationalities and several partners in ‘dual career’ relationships. Its been a fulfilling experience learning what all these identities and life experiences mean for our flexible ways of working and communicating and seeing how we incorporate numerous qualities such as trust and respect.

Intangible Assets

Our next theme, which we shared at our October 2017 Masterclass, was about what organisations need to do in order to be aware of whether their employees are building or depleting their productivity, vitality and ability to transform. Companies investing in their employees’ Intangible Assets was something which seemed logical to me – who wouldn’t think about their staff’s well-being?! I soon uncovered the impact that learning, vitality and the ability to transform has on employees engagement, creativity and pride in a company – not just their overall happiness at work. There is an abundance of research showing that Intangible Assets are crucial in enabling employees to thrive in the future and so it was great to see them reinforced into our work at Hot Spots Movement. For example, vitality and the notion of work life balance is extremely important here – several of our colleagues go to the gym or yoga classes together within working hours and we all get involved with the many aspects of the business, allowing us to constantly learn and be creative. Many of us have also changed and developed our roles in the last 12 months – including me! I’ve recently joined the Marketing and Comms function and am really enjoying embracing it as a new facet to Community Management.

Shifting Cultures

The third and final theme of my first 12 months was Shifting Cultures, which we explored at the beginning of this year and at our February Masterclass. With many organisations implementing and feeling the pressure of facilitating complex changes in their company cultures, we explored what it takes to enact such changes and, specifically, how, by whom, and what barriers exist. I was welcomed with open arms into a culture where our values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are all aligned, creating an ethos which is collaborative, innovative and fun! We play games, have competitions, socialise and even little things like swapping seats every few months really keeps energy and interaction levels high. As a team, we have taken the time to get to know each other making us more supportive and stronger advocates of group work. We share projects allowing for ongoing challenges and creativity and we operate in a fast-paced, vibrant environment where we are all connected to our company’s purpose. We are also based in Somerset House – a renowned creative hub on the Thames, bringing a real sense of community to work.

I have had an inspiring first year at Hot Spots Movement and am very much looking forward to the next one where we will be exploring Agile People Strategies and The Future of High Performance, having just finished our immediate previous theme on Narratives on The Future of Work at our June Masterclass.

Get in touch with us now to find out how you can incorporate our research into engaging your employees!

melissa@hotspotsmovement.co

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10 Years of The Future of Work – And We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

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10 years ago, Lynda Gratton and Hot Spots Movement set out to figure out what the future of work would look like. Lynda had a hunch that there would be a massive transformation and was keen to understand 1. what was changing, and 2. how it would impact organisations, people and ultimately 3. how work would change as a result. We gathered an enthusiastic group of companies who would spend an academic year with us coming up with answers to these three questions.

You could argue, and we would agree, with the wisdom of hindsight, that it was rather optimistic to expect that after less than one year, we would have clear and concise answers.

10 years on, we’re still at it, and it’s getting more exciting by the day. In fact, it turned out that what we had started wasn’t a one-year research consortium, but a journey with an open-ended ticket, where the destinations and the routings are being defined as we move along.

The first leg of the journey was about identifying the major forces that would impact and partially or significantly define what organisations and work would look like, as well as the shape and form of future talent. We looked at technology, globalisation, societal change, demography and low carbon.

The second leg of the journey was spent on understanding how these major forces challenge fixtures of work such as – ‘work has a place’ – we work in an office or in a factory; ‘work has a time’ – we work from 9-5 or we work shifts’; and ‘work is a job’ – we’re employed to do a defined role, on a permanent basis. We explored what happens if these fixtures would no longer hold up, and we quickly moved from ‘if’ to ‘when’ as it rapidly became clear that the jury was no longer out on whether it would happen but only on how quickly.

The third leg was when we turned to investigating in detail what was happening in people’s lives, based on the understanding that at some stage (generally it should happen sooner than it does), work and organisations need to adapt to what is happening in people’s lives. We saw lots of evidence that rather than expect people – talent – to conform to how work had been organised, largely unchanged, since the 1950s, the organisation of work would need to change to attract and engage talent. So, we dove into shifting identities – how notions such as gender, family structures, age are now much more fluid and diverse. We established the need for organisations to create workplaces that embrace the whole selves of their talent and how they evolve, in all facets, over time.

All along the way, we have focused on how companies need to adapt their legacy people policies and processes. One of our favourite images to illustrate the status of people processes in many global organisations is an archaeological excavation site with multiple layers. To

understand how companies can address the challenge of having to attract and engage talent with/despite multiple era processes, we studied the Future of HR and particularly the importance of identifying and saying parting with sunset processes.

Are we at our final destination? Absolutely not! Because the future of work is impacted by how people’s lives change, by technology and by societal change, all of which remains in the making, our final destination is not yet in sight. There is so much we still need to understand, and over the next 12 months, we’ll be researching Agile People Strategy, the High-performing Organisation, and Digitising the Organisation. We’ll be looking into why so many big organisations are struggling to adopt flexible working widely, what digitalisation means for organisations, talent and work.

So my prediction is that in five years’ time, we’ll be as excited about the future of work as we were 10 years ago and as we are now.

Please stay in touch – this co-creational project is only possible thanks to great members of the Future of Work Research Consortium (www.hotspotsmovement.com).

 

Transcending our echo-chambers: the importance of diversity of thought

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Marvin Headshot.pngHere at Hot Spots Movement we pride ourselves on our multidisciplinary approach to research on the Future of Work. It is something that goes right to the heart of our intellectual ethos and lays the foundation for much of our research. From Aristotle to Aldous Huxley, or from Sociology to Semiotics, we passionately believe that the best and most innovative work is one whereby an eclectic array of views, ideas and opinions are incorporated into the body of knowledge. Seemingly, the days of the maverick lone wolf (think Tesla, Darwin or Einstein) are over. This is not, however, to suggest that creative individuals don’t matter, but ‘rather that we become more innovative when we remain open to as many arguments, philosophies, conversations and rival ideas as possible’[i].

Take, for example, the research conducted by Stefan Wuchty, Benjamin Jones and Brian Uzzi. This multidisciplinary team of researchers used big data to learn what distinguished ideas that had an impact from those that did not. After sifting through twenty million academic articles and two million patents cited over the past fifty years, ‘they discovered that the most innovative and impactful ideas were much more likely to come from cross-enterprise collaborations rather than from teams from the same university, lab or research centre’[ii].

However, despite this, many organisations still tend to build networks which only reinforce the existing ideas underpinning their current organisational architecture. Such a tendency can partly be explained by ‘selective exposure theory’ which is based on the notion that people have a predisposition to engage with information that reaffirms our existing viewpoints. Quite simply, this is because the brain favours familiarity and people therefore do not respond well to opinions that don’t align with their own.

To this end, transcending our echo chambers and incorporating diversity of thought into the organisational framework requires us to go against our instinctual need to create networks that reinforce our pre-existing views. However, one innovative initiative that can help build more diverse networks into the workplace is that of co-working spaces. ‘Co-working spaces bring together diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals in a shared, communal setting’[iii]; thereby organically create a milieu in which people from wide ranging industries and professions can assemble and share their diverse knowledge and expertise. Such an environment cultivates not only a hybridity of perspectives but also innovation.

However, if completely redesigning the office space is unfeasible, then homogeneous logic and ideas can also be overcome through mechanisms such as crowdsourcing platforms or sponsored lunches with rival competitors.

Fundamentally though, irrespective of what mechanisms are implemented, incorporating diversity of thought into your organisational framework is contingent on being open minded and expressing alacrity to viewpoints and perspectives which in the past may have seemed fatuous or superfluous. The era in which we live is characterized by unprecedented and nebulous change. This generates many exciting opportunities, but such opportunities can arguably only be fully realised if organisations are willing to absorb the information and ideas which exist in sometimes unfamiliar domains.

[i] Burkeman, O. (2010) Steven Johnson: ‘Eureka moments are very, very rare’, (The Guardian)

[ii] HotSpots Movement (2015) The Collaboration Imperative Report

[iii] Bound, A. (2018) Demand for Co-working spaces expands beyond London (Financial Times)

 

The Unintended Consequences of a Strong Culture

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Hannah Blog HeadshotWith our Shifting Cultures Masterclass around the corner, I’ve been doing some thinking about culture – specifically, the elusive concept of a ‘strong culture’.

Crafting a strong culture can be interpreted as forming a shared social identity, or a culture in which individuals identify highly with one another and the organisation as a whole. There are benefits to this approach; high-identifying employees demonstrate greater abilities in coping with stress, resilience, and performance. Equally, there are also pitfalls – highly-identifying teams can become more susceptible to stress and burnout due to pressure to constantly perform and fear of letting the team down. So, the pursuit of a strong culture is not as straight-forward as it may appear; in fact, there are three major unintended consequences that may emerge in the strongest of cultures:

  1. Strong cultures hire for culture fit. This focus, though seemingly advantageous, can make it difficult to hire individuals who are different from the prevailing culture, despite their potential as a counterbalancing asset. While personality and culture fit are important, considering them as deciding factors in the recruitment process significantly limits diversity of thought. We then enter the trap of like-minded hiring like-minded, while those that may offer a unique value-adding perspective are neglected or snatched up by competitors.
  2. In strong cultures, the strongest voices are heard. This is a problem because there is the potential for a significant group to be silenced. Even in cases of fairly homogenised cultures, employees are still subject to familiarity blindness – it is difficult for those immersed within a culture to see a culture. Every employee sees the world through their own biased cultural filters. This can turn dangerous when employees are immersed in and blinded to potentially toxic environments, as there is no way to challenge normative behaviours.
  3. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, strong cultures are change resistant. Strength implies stability, and as such, is not welcoming to subcultures. An emergent theme in our research is that subcultures are healthy – even essential – players in helping the organisation stay agile. This is because they encourage creative thinking and constructive controversy in regard to how the organisation should interact both internally and with the environment. Moreover, subcultures serve as the spawning grounds for emerging values, keeping the organisation aligned with the needs of customers, society and other stakeholders.

With all this in mind, rather than constantly strengthening and reinforcing culture, I propose that we should be focused on creating a dynamic culture instead.

The key tenets of a dynamic culture include nurturing diverse perspectives, and providing channels for employee voices to be heard. This is not to say that you should throw your values out the window. It’s important to unite your employees under a set of core values – values that are central the organisation’s functioning – in order to reap the benefits of a shared social identity. However, it’s just as important to ensure that these are distinguished from peripheral values – traits that are desirable but not essential to organisation. It is here on the periphery where agility and innovation thrive, allowing people to simultaneously embrace and constructively challenge the dominant culture.

So, if you’re looking to craft a strong culture, you may be better off considering instead how to cultivate a dynamic one. Dynamic cultures adapt to uncertainty and continuous change, fostering diversity of thought and perspective with plenty of room for questioning the norm.

Stay tuned for our upcoming Masterclass, The Agile People Strategy, on 2nd October 2018. For more information, contact hannah@hotspotsmovement.com.