The law of attraction states that like attracts like. Those with outgoing personalities tend to attract other outgoing individuals, while more studious serious types are likely to surround themselves with similarly aligned people.

Within your personal life, this is likely to be beneficial. Surround yourself with others who share your values and general opinions and you will probably have a successful personal life, but in business, the research suggests its not the case.

The difference between cognitive diversity and diversity.

Within business, the opposites attract theory is the one to follow. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the benefits of diversity and inclusion. A diverse workforce is more productive, happier and more profitable.

The discussion, however, has largely been on hiring a broad range of people – a balance of genders, generations, sexual orientation, cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, which is positive and necessary, but another element that should not be ignored is the need for cognitive diversity within a business.

What is cognitive diversity? Why is it a good thing?

Cognitive Diversity refers to the differing perspectives or information processing styles that we have. Cognitive diversity is about how individuals think, rather than their innate gender differences or background. It is less visible and established at a young age.

Within business, it is a powerful tool that drives innovation and produces results. For example, Stephen Bowcott Sisk & Sons CEO states… I try to mix up teams, so you have thinkers, doers, listeners and also people who are energetic on the team. A lot of managers will select the mirror of themselves. My view is that a nice mix is better and that has always worked for me.

The theory behind Cognitive Diversity is that if you have a team who all think the same, no new ideas will form and tasks will take longer because everyone shares the same logic and way of processing information. If you add another person to the team who has a different way of thinking they can add a fresh perspective and help get the task or project done faster and in all likelihood more successfully.

Like diversity, cognitive diversity in business is not a new practice but there has been a renewed focus on it in recent times as the importance of innovation and new ways of thinking grows. Also like diversity, there has been a lot of research done on the benefits – many of which are hard to ignore. In a series of studies by Harvard Business Review diverse teams (in the traditional sense) sometimes performed well in assigned tasks, but other times failed or didn’t even complete the tasks. When cognitive diversity was implemented teams performed better and quicker.

In summary, If you have a team who always agrees your team will lack new ideas and processes. Your team may be productive and might perform quite well, but they are less likely to create new ideas or over perform. Different perspectives and ideas are important and are at the core of cognitive diversity.

Cognitive Diversity – practical ways to implement it into your business

The issue with cognitive diversity is it is harder to spot and implement. When hiring a person their gender, age or cultural background is usually quite clear to see. Similarly, it’s easy to spot if a team is lacking in diversity.

With cognitive diversity, the differences aren’t physical or immediately obvious so it is harder to spot. Another element that makes creating a cognitively diverse team difficult is that law of attraction. We are intrinsically drawn to people with a similar mindset to our own. Get around this by using personality tests in your interview process and by seeking out new team members who don’t agree with all of your ideas and thoughts.

Stephen Bowcott, Sisk & Sons CEO, shares some advise that a colleague shared with him…He said to me: “Just remember, you can’t have “100% ‘100 percent-ers’. You have to accept that you will have some people who give just 50%, but as long as they’re on your side, keep them on the team.” Stephen continues…  Never be afraid to appoint someone who is better than you. If someone is better than me at something, I want them on my team.