IT Best PracticesKnowledge Management

Measure Your Team’s Intellectual Diversity

All the right traits for inventive thinking rarely exist in the mind of a single person. An article at Harvard Business Review proposes that, for a group to perform at optimal levels, it needs grounded expertise and fresh eyes, playful creative types and serious productive types, those who can improvise and those who stick to a game plan. Here is a strategy for intellectual diversity.

The 8 Types of Myers-Briggs

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gives a rough breakdown of the various thinking styles you’ll encounter in individuals. A person may be “introverted” or “extroverted.” Do they seek information from other people and respond rapidly or do they like to process information internally before presenting their case? Those same individuals might be “sensing” or “intuitive.” That is, they may prefer facts and data or instead feel more comfortable with big picture ideas and concepts. A “thinking” person is one who likes to arrive at decisions in a way that is deliberate and logical, whereas a “feeling” person will be more attuned to emotional cues and subjective human values. A “judging” person likes to have closure and all loose ends tied up in the end of a task. A “perceiving” person is always looking to gather more data without closure on a decision.

How to Measure for Diversity

It’s important to note that these types are not either-or propositions. Every person is capable of exhibiting all eight traits to varying degrees, but most people strongly favor four of the eight traits. For instance, you might be an extrovert who is sensing, thinking, and perceiving, but who has access to intuitions and can broach the value side of the equation when necessary. The point, as a manager, is to arrange for diversity by selecting a variety of thinking types for your team. That way it’s possible to avoid groupthink and to foster the “creative abrasion” that generates productive debate and discussion. If you’ve got an existing team and are curious about how their styles translate into productivity, hold a meeting and ask questions about their interests and backgrounds.

Just one last disclaimer–the Myers-Briggs test is not the gospel and has received its fair share of scrutiny. But using it as a starting point in building diverse teams could still be useful.

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