A popular adage says ‘two heads are better than one’, but Juliet Bourke, a partner in Deloitte’s consulting business, puts a slightly different spin on that aphorism. Companies that want to create breakthrough ideas should ask: ‘Which two heads are better than one?’ That’s the title of her book, which makes the case that diversity of thought can give companies a competitive edge.
Bourke’s journey to becoming an expert on diversity began many years ago when she was a discrimination lawyer. The work inspired a desire to explore human behaviour further.
“That’s led me on this interesting path of inquiry: looking at highly inclusive leaders and wanting to understand what makes them tick and what they do; and looking at workplaces and working out which ones have better cultures,” she says. “It’s been a journey of exploration. Curiosity has kept me going for a long time.”
Getting diversity right is tricky for many reasons. One is human nature.
Unique, but part of the pack
“I think belonging is a very human need. We’re social animals and we run in packs. We want to be part of that pack,” she says. “At the same time, all of us yearn for a sense of individuality, so it’s this really interesting blend in people to want to be known for their uniqueness, want to be known as an individual, and yet belong to a group.”
Successful leaders must balance that tension. “Value in that context is ensuring that you see that person’s uniqueness, that you see what it is that makes them them, but at the same time you make sure that they’re treated with fairness in a group setting. You give them respect. You connect them to people,” she shares.
Stepping outside your bubble
Most people unconsciously operate in a bubble that limits their interactions to people who share their background or ways of thinking. This puts a boundary on ideas and can cause companies to get stuck in what is known as groupthink.
To knock down these barriers, people must first identify their bubbles, recognise how they limit views of the world, and then open themselves to listening to people without judgment.
“It’s not to say that in the end you don’t bring your mind to it and critically analyse what someone’s saying, but the first point is opening yourself up to that point of view rather than batting it away,” Bourke says.
Expand the way your company thinks
Often companies emphasize racial, ethnic and gender diversity but overlook diversity of thought. Bourke’s research has identified six frameworks for solving problems: process, risk, outcomes, options, people and evidence. Most people tend to use only one or two of those when they plan or seek solutions. That increases errors and reduces the likelihood of breakthroughs.
Diverse teams capitalize on all six ways of thinking.
“If you see other peoples’ thinking models and combine them with your own then you end up with a better outcome,” Bourke said. “(It leaves) everyone feeling that their perspective on the world has been taken into consideration, and therefore the solution that you create, or the opportunity you identify is much more well-rounded and has greater chance of success.”