Change of Perspective:
Over the last few weeks we have looked at the mental health risks for men and women and how each gender’s experience of stress is different. We suggested that our unique experience of the world and the workplace is not limited to gender but rather is defined by the complex interplay of influences relating to our identity and culture. We have considered how we might manage differences, but in this blog we will change our perspective to look at what these differences can do for us: how they add value in the workplace.
Diversity and Innovation:
Scientific American reports on a number of studies that suggest diversity encourages creativity and innovation. The research shows that this is because people work harder in diverse groups than in uniform groups. The members of homogenous groups generally assume they and the group share similar opinions and agreement on issues will therefore occur easily. In diverse groups people assume there are different beliefs and therefore work harder to consider facts, process information and express persuasive opinions.
We all have unconscious biases; beliefs that we hold at an unconscious level, rather than biases we are consciously aware of. Unconscious biases are automatically triggered by our brain making quick decisions about others based on our background, our cultural environment and our experiences.
These biases cloud our judgement about others without us even knowing they exist, making them difficult to override. When we have a belief about someone or something we tend to seek out evidence that supports our beliefs or expectations, discounting anything that is counter to those beliefs. This is known as confirmation bias.
Self-awareness is the first step to overcoming our unconscious bias, to test what your unconscious biases may be visit Harvard IAT and take an Implicit Attitude Test!
Moving Away from Bias:
In his talk at the Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016, Professor Richard Crisp explained how the ‘social’ brain takes shortcuts in processing information by drawing on stereotypes. When we analyse stereotypes, explore our unconscious bias and begin think about differences, we flex our lateral thinking muscles, inhibiting our own view and taking a more creative approach.
Unique Perspectives United:
What does this mean for us in the workplace? We should enjoy being different. Our own unique perspective can be valuable in the creative decision making process. We should also enjoy others differences.
We improve our own work by broadening our horizons and learning from perspectives different from our own. But don’t take our word for it – here are some comments from a recent course we delivered on Diversity and Equality and how they helped employees at work.
“Helped me in being open to a constant learning process”.
“Opened my mind to other people’s point of view”
“Made me think about how to look at the bigger picture”