How to Build a Cognitively Diverse Team

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on May 02, 2022

This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.

Effective team building is a combination of hiring the right people and supporting their transition into the team. And the best teams have a mix of thinking styles, in order to see problems from multiple perspectives. 

Yet, we often hire people who think like us.

That’s because our brains are wired for safety, which means we have an unconscious bias to work with people who see the world the same way we do. These biases mean that while we have teams that feel familiar to us, it limits our ability to realize the full potential of our team. 

Too much of a good thing

When teams think alike, they have blindspots. For example, a team of Thinkers will be great at analyzing information and making objective decisions, but they will overlook or downplay the impact on other people, how the decision will make people feel, and how it will affect people at a personal level.

A team of Judgers will be great at creating structure and order. But it will be quick to make final decisions, not leaving enough space to discuss the options or change course when new information comes to light. 

Having more balanced teams – of Thinkers and Feelers, of Judgers and Perceivers, and the other preferences – will allow more factors to be considered, discussed and accounted for. Yes, it will initially create more disagreement and slow things down, but it will create stronger teams and better decisions in the long run. 

Different perspectives and robust discussions aren't the sign of a weak team, but a strong one.   

Know your biases (ie, your type preferences)

It is tricky to navigate an issue that is hard to see. You can use personality type to help you become more aware of some of these biases. By knowing your own personality type, you will get a sense of the kind of people you feel safe with and who you want to bring into the team. Thinking about your team’s mission, what would be the problem if you had a team of people just like you? What blindspots would exist?

Then take a look at what biases might already exist in your team. Here is a guide to creating a personality map of your team. What patterns are you noticing within your team? Are there any patterns in the people you have hired directly? 

As you review those decisions, notice what information or traits you placed more value on in the hiring process. The more you are aware of these preferences, the more you can work with them in the future. 

But, avoid using type in hiring

While it might seem like a quick fix to have your candidates take a personality assessment and hire someone who doesn't share your traits, people are more complex than that. In order to find someone who is the right fit for the job and the organization’s culture, and who contributes to cognitive diversity of your team, you need to look beyond personality type.  

One way to avoid these biases and achieve your hiring goals is to include your team in the process. Work with your team to help them understand their biases and blindspots (your team personality map will help here).

As a group, discuss the following:

  • What skills do we already have in the team?
  • What new skills do we want to bring into the team?
  • Who already has these skills and could support onboarding?
  • What problems keep arising in the team? 
  • How do these relate to the team’s blindspots (based on personality type)?
  • What differences do we need to bring into the team?
  • How would we support new skills and different opinions to flourish?

Nominate several members of your team to be a part of the hiring process. Choose  people who think differently from each other to avoid defaulting to groupthink in the hiring process. 

In interviews, listen differently 

Now that you and your team are more aware of your biases, it’s time to put it into practice in the interview and onboarding process.

In interviews make space for others types to express themselves as authentically as possible. Use your personality preferences to adjust your natural style to make space for people of other preferences. 

For example, if you are an Extravert, plan to listen more and allow for silence and thinking time. If you are an Introvert, be ready to share personal information. Sensors need to be ready for unexpected tangents and seeing where they go. Intuitives need to be prepared for details and to summarize them. 

Thinkers need to allow for more time to get to know the candidate on a personal level and Feelers need to be more direct or concise at times. Judgers need to stay open to alternatives for a bit longer and Perceivers need to provide greater clarity on expectations. 

Allow the team culture to change

It is not enough just to hire someone who thinks differently, we need to support their transition into the team. When we think about onboarding, we normally think about helping the new hire adjust to the existing culture, about helping them fit in with “the way we do things around here.” But if you are trying to build a cognitively diverse high performing team, you also need to think about how to help the team adjust to the new hire. 

As I mentioned earlier, our brains are hardwired for safety. And that includes welcoming “strangers” into our “tribe.” At work, we often have an unspoken hesitancy about new people and not trusting them until we feel safe. But as we are trying to create a team comfortable with diversity, we need to place as much emphasis on helping the team adjust to the new hire, as we do on helping the new hire adjust to the team. 

To help your group prepare for the change, discuss the following with them:

  • What will a new hire help us gain (not just in skills and workload)?
  • How does the team need to change to enable their success?
  • What do we worry about losing in that process?
  • As a team, what practices do we need to put in place to allow our culture to support someone who brings a different perspective?
  • How can we support each other during this process? 

It may sound like a lot of work, but culture plays a large role in a team’s effectiveness. If you are trying to build a cognitively diverse high performing team, then these kinds of conversations help develop practices that support the team well into the future. 

What’s next?

Don’t wait for the team to need a new hire. Start becoming aware of your biases and blindspots now, it's not an overnight process. And help your team do the same. The more you discuss cognitive diversity with your team, the more you’ll be ready for when it is time to expand or change the team. 

To discover more, head over to the Truity@Work platform with your team to access assessments and reports focused around specific workplace challenges. And if you want to go deeper, you can book a manager debrief for yourself and a workshop for your team

Samantha Mackay

Samantha is the Lead Trainer at Truity and is Enneagram Coach, certified by CP Enneagram Academy. She believes knowing your personality is the key to navigating life's hurdles. Samantha is an ENTP and Enneagram 7, who is always surrounded by a pile of books, a steaming cup of tea and a block of her favourite chocolate. Find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samanthamackay/. Check out her course "Unlocking the Power of Your Personality" at www.truity.com/training

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

Comments

Chloelace says...

Hey just reaching out,

I saw that I was a 2 on the test, and it seems like you are a very successful person and possibly have the same mindset as me in order to achive such success so I was wondering what the difference was between a 7 (you) and a 2? I would like to learn please.

 

Thank you,

Erin Cruzan

Samantha Mackay says...

Hi Erin,

Thanks for your question. Success is an interesting concept when it comes to personality. Every type can work hard, but every type also defines success differently. Our type can also help us understand our deeper drivers and motivations, and therefore what success means to each of us. For me as an ENTP/SP7, my core driver/value is creative freedom. And it took me a while to both realise that and to figure out what that meant in reality. (And it's a very differnt kind of creative freedom to what a Four would want.) 

Your core motivation will likely be very different, based on your personality type, life experience and interests. Whatever that driver is, you will be subconsciously finding ways to try and meet that need everyday. 

Two's are driven by their relationships and seeking approval and acceptance in some form. Sevens are driven by the need for variety as a way of avoiding pain and suffering. 

I recommend doing Brene Brown's values exercise from her book Dare to Lead, as that really challenges you to identify your single, primary value and thus core motivator. And then use your personality type to see how you respond when you get what you need and when you don't. 

I hope that helps,

Samantha 

 

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