Ignite Creativity with Cognitive Diversity

Posted by Sue Pine, CAE on Feb 22, 2019 10:56:26 AM

Have you ever been in a meeting where there has been a motion on the floor and a Board Member chimes in with a few reasons why the Board might want to exercise some caution, prior to the deciding vote? Perhaps you or others sitting at the table may have viewed the person or comment as negative and not someone who wanted to move the organization forward.

The theme for the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executive’s Annual Meeting was diversity. I was fortunate to be able to attend a session titled “Ignite Creativity with Cognitive Diversity: Critical for Survival Growth in Today's Complex World.”

The speaker’s initial question to the attendees was to share the first word they thought of when thinking of diversity. As you might expect, responses included categories like gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social status. 

We were then challenged to think about introducing and promoting Cognitive Diversity into association meetings and events. I was anxious to learn more, as I have personally experienced the scenario that I posed in the opening paragraph during more than one Board Meeting. Dr. Gaurav Bhalla, PhD explained that when everyone walks and talks the same way, the organization is compromised. He shared that a sea of sameness doesn’t provide diversity of thought. It was at this juncture that Cognitive Diversity was further explained.

The attendees were briefly introduced to a system (and book) designed by Edward de Bono titled “Six Thinking Hats.” The key concept of the theory is that individuals in the meeting are asked to wear an imaginary hat that is associated with the idea of parallel thinking to allow groups to fully vet a topic.

Edward de Bono’s – (authority on Cognitive Thinking)

  • Blue Hat – Process
  • White Hat – Facts
  • Red Hat – Feelings
  • Green Hat – Creativity
  • Yellow Hat – Benefits
  • Black Hat – Cautions
As the presentation continued, I could immediately envision a Board Meeting where you could literally bring six different color hats and assign different Board Members to contribute to the discussion with the “thinking” assigned to their color hat. Often, directors think that there needs to be 100% consensus on new ideas or decisions. Truthfully, providing a safe environment and free pass for a little “Cognitive Diversity” might lead to better decisions. I certainly plan to give this a try at our next Board Meeting. I’ll let you know how the theory is received.