Different Cognitive Styles Enhance Performance
According to a study by Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, teams achieve the highest collective intelligence and productivity with the right balance of cognitive diversity. From a talent acquisition perspective, this means that hiring managers should take a holistic approach by evaluating their current employees’ cognitive styles and determining what the teams are missing. Then, the missing cognitive styles should be enhancing qualifiers in searches for ideal candidates.
Woolley explains that the “right” balance follows the Goldilocks principle: not too little diversity and not too much. A group that lacks diversity may experience stagnation in productivity, creativity, and collaboration. A group with too much diversity, however, may not be able to come agreements on decisions.
When teams strike the ideal balance of cognitive diversity, they show enhanced performance and more efficiently adapt to obstacles and change.
Hiring managers and company leaders should take into account that cognitive diversity is separate from an individual’s personality. On sales or marketing teams, the collective nature of the teams may be homogeneous. But among similar personalities, there should be an even balance of cognitive styles—the way individuals process information. Cognitively diverse teams experience higher levels of efficiency and develop more creative strategies.