The Divisiveness of Diversity!

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity of opinion is divisive.

I can’t recall a time when our views have been so polarised and so prone to induce negative reactions from those with alternate opinions. Even debate it seems is being discarded as antagonism rather than reasoned discussion.

Now this is a real problem! Not only does the divisiveness brought about by differing views colour and diminish the interactions we have, but that very same diversity of view is also the best means we have of designing the very best ways forward!

So the very thing we need to work in our favour, tends to work against us.

There is no getting around the fact that we do not like hearing opinions that are different to our own. Our opinion is the correct one and those others are missing the point. Everyone perceives the world differently. If we assume that we all see things similarly, or that we are all on the same page, think again ….. We don’t.

The key question then becomes …

How can we include diverse opinion in a way that it is non-threatening, listened to and incorporated into our thinking?

To offset the adversarial interactions that diverse views can surface we apply a thinking technique very specifically designed to enable all involved to explore possibilities from different perspectives. We refer to this as parallel thinking. It assists us to move outside of our habitual thinking styles and develop more rounded views of a given situation. This  promotes fuller input from more people and significantly reduces argument from those with divergent points of view. Parallel thinking allows for a much fuller subject matter exploration without the associated angst differing views can cause.

Thinking in parallel is not about thinking the same. It’s about getting people to look at issues or topics from the same thinking perspective at the same time. When this happens the “opposition” is taken out of the equation yet we still hear and can consider the divergent viewpoints offered.

If we can take the divisiveness out of our interaction and develop more fully rounded views of a topic, we start to see more possibilities and are less threatened by things that are not in accordance with the way we see the world as individuals.

Everyone can be more collaborative and innovative with the application of these methods:

Case Study 1: "The Director General (DG) of a Government Department was summoned by the State's Premier and informed that the Department's 
budget was to be slashed by $20,000,000.00 in the coming financial year. Given a growing work portfolio across the State, substantial 
cost-cutting already in place and a pledge that there would be no more cuts, this proved to be a serious issue for the Department.


In response, the Department's most senior executives were flown in for a two day crisis session to find new ways of addressing the 
shortfall. There was substantial disagreement on how to best solve the issue so the session proved costly and unfruitful. The DG then 
decided that more innovative thinking methods needed to be trialed on the funding dilemma. 

As a result the Executive Team were again flown into the State's capital and underwent a simple facilitation applying the parallel
and creative thinking approaches of the Six Thinking Hats was applied. In doing so, the team quickly generated a range of new perspectives 
and ideas to apply to their budget problem. 

With a more structured thinking approach the substantial subject-matter knowledge of the team was fully applied and over a 3 hour period 
they identified a quantifiable 12.5 million dollars worth of savings that were hitherto undiscovered with their normal thinking approaches".

Diversity of views, even opposing views can be a significant business driver.

 

Case Study 2: "In a more operational setting we have also seen group managers use parallel thinking to agree to file a submission to Government 
regarding a substantial levy they had been paying yearly. The managers had for years been reluctantly paying a substantial levy on one of their 
purchases. This payment came directly from their operating budgets and at a cost to other services. Most of their cohort however believed 
challenging this levy would be a waste of precious effort and time on their behalf. 

One of the standard methods when assessing anything in parallel is to always analyse a situation for value before to doing so critically.
Though initially defaulting to critical thinking and disagreement, the group then applied their parallel thinking approach together through a 
value assessment lens. The potential afforded by focusing on value first allowed this group to take some decisive action that helped them to
identify over $600,000 of savings for their Department inside 7 days"!

Good decision making can turn on the head of a pin of sound thinking methods are applied!

So while polarising thought-bubbles are diminishing our capacity to productively discuss and incorporate many views, thinking in parallel allows our great intelligence and knowledge to move away from the group-think to “thinking as a group”.

If we can get the thinking right, the actions that follow will always improve …

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About the Author

Frank Connolly is the Principal of “Think Quick”, a business that adds value through thinking differently. His work history covers all sectors and includes initiatives that have yielded bottom line benefit in the 10’s of millions of dollars.

Current clients range from Exxon-Mobil to Government Depts within Australia to Global NGO’s.

Much of his working life has been split between Australia, the South Pacific and Asia where he has trained and facilitated Lateral Thinking techniques, and been acknowledged by Edward de Bono as one of the foremost practitioners of the de Bono thinking methods worldwide.

Frank believes strongly that if we can improve the way we think, the actions that follow also improve.

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