Diversity: the art of thinking independently, togetherMalcolm Stevenson Forbes
There is a big positive impact that can be created by having a diverse group of people learning together. First, let’s establish what we mean by diverse.
When we think of diversity, most commonly we think of race, culture, age and sexual orientation. But there are many more than that. Consider, for example, the differences that arise in a business context, such as varying departments, tenure in the business, position and expertise. On top of this, other diversity differences include personality traits in individuals, such as humour, confidence and outlook on life such as optimism or pessimism. Diversity can also be found through personal positioning using tools such as MBTi.
Through using Virtual Training, we can create an environment of rich and varied discussion, through embracing these differences in one another. This allows us to explore a variety of perspectives and experiences, while protected by a psychologically safe environment.
In their research, Gregersen and Christensen talk about the importance of networking and how it is a common trait amongst high level innovation leaders. They found that it wasn’t about these leaders just having a large network that was important. Rather, that having a diverse network made a difference. They found that the most successful innovative leaders were more likely to have travelled, spent time working abroad and from experiencing different perspectives it really helped them drive their businesses forwards.
So, how does this translate into Learning and Development (L&D)? By creating an environment where learners are interacting with a diverse group of people, they are more like to explore differences and work through varying perspectives to develop their thinking and outcomes.
When a group of learners in a workshop are alike; maybe they already work together, have a group dynamic, have similar roles or parallel backgrounds/experience. When posed with a challenge, the group are likely to find themselves thinking in similar ways to tackle the problem. This route to thinking is likely to be convergent, rather than divergent. This makes the idea pool potentially limited and restricted.
On the other hand, in a diverse group, learners bring unique and differing perspectives to the group, creating a much larger pool of available information, skills, approaches and experience. This allows others to tap into that rich mix and together, generate creative ideas to work through and explore.
Will Burns says in his article, “The most important diversity is that of thinking.” He discusses how organisers of major brainstorming sessions often mistakenly focus only on the number of people in the workshop and not on optimising the blend of people. It is the mixing of learners, their talents, expertise and experience that can make idea generation exponential.
The bottom line is that diversity and difference are things to be embraced. Encourage your learners’ varied palettes of experience and expertise to add to the richness of your Virtual Training workshops. Watch as your colleagues learn not only from their trainers but from the differences of each other.
Need some help in boosting your learner outcomes? Unsure how to encourage diversity in your workshops?