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3 Ways to Get Ideas from a Diverse Team

by | Jan 7, 2020

Most companies have done a good job of recognizing and increasing diversity.  But in many cases, the differences people bring with them are just supposed to magically produce new ideas, and that’s not really how it works.

Diversity alone, while it’s a good starting point, is not enough.

For example, people from some cultures, and some women, too, have trouble speaking up.  They have ingrained ideas that stating an opinion, asking a challenging question, or disagreeing with others is too aggressive or shows a lack of respect.

Add to that, some among us are introverts.  Introverts will try to form the perfect idea or solution before speaking up.  And if things get too confrontational . . . forget about it.  The introverts will stay quiet.

The extroverts, meanwhile, thrive on confrontation.  They’re out there.  So, it’s the extroverts that end up doing the talking, but sometimes the quiet people have the best ideas.

As a team leader, or even a group participant, you can counter balance that.  Here are three ways:

  1. Meet privately with your quietest people. Let them know you notice them.  Then identify why their thoughts are important to the team. Avoid putting them on the spot in meetings without privately letting them know first.  It gives them time to shape their thoughts.
  1. Set ground rules for handling disagreements. Coming up with fresh ideas takes a willingness to disagree and the most innovative teams are always asking:
  • Why are we doing it this way?
  • How could we do it better?
  • What if it looked like this?

The goal isn’t to pick a fight or to make it personal, but to create healthy debate and a synergy of ideas. Agree to hold major disagreements at a later meeting when two sides of an issue will have time to prepare their cases.

  1. Keep the ideas flowing. Leading a diverse team often demands extra effort. In order to keep the flow of ideas going, encourage “yes AND” interactions rather than “yes BUT” responses that can shut down dialogue.  Ask people to defend or evaluate each suggestion on its merits in a way that’s both constructive and direct.

The more you can harness your cultural capital, the more engaged your team will be and the fresher ideas they’re likely to come up with.  In today’s business environment, organizations that harness the differences of their people are the ones that will excel.  This is because there is a growing awareness globally that diversity drives innovation.  Is your team ready to innovate?

 DynaComm works with business leaders to enhance their leadership potential through executive speech coaching, presentation training, thought leader planning and reputation management.  Find us at www.dynacommllc.com.