we need this surprising kind of diversity

We all live in our own reality. Our reality lives inside our heads. It is what we have experienced throughout our lives. Right?

My reality is different from your reality. Your reality is different from everybody else’s reality. Even family members who live together would have a different reality – if you lived with a brother or a sister or parents. You grew up in the same family under the same roof, and you spent time together so that you may have some similarities in your reality, but the fact of realities is that we all carry our own reality within our heads.

The combination of everything we’ve ever experienced, everything we’ve ever thought, everything we’ve ever seen, everything we’ve ever heard, everything plus the decisions we make within ourselves and with the people around us. Our personal experience is our own reality.

This is why many say that diversity is essential and necessary. Even similar realities are challenging, and it’s difficult to understand someone else’s reality without that person being able to explain it.

When innovating, it’s crucial to have a clash of realities. You create this clash of realities by bringing different people with different perspectives into the ideation team.

This is not just physical diversity. This is cognitive diversity; you have to have people on the team whos brains are wired differently from yours. These brains are wired differently simply because they have alternate realities to yours.

There was a diversity “joke” floating around the internet a while back regarding the editorial staff of HuffPost. The photo of the editorial staff consisted of all white women around the same age. People were saying, look at the lack of diversity, that there is no diversity in this group of white women. But of course, there is. Each one of those women has undergone a completely different reality from every other one of those women. They may look the same, but on the inside, they could all have very different backgrounds.

I’m not excusing a lack of physical diversity. I’m just saying that pure physical appearance does not necessarily make someone cognitively diverse. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have brought in some people of color or men into the editorial board. All I’m saying is that when you see a group of people, no matter what they look like on the outside, they all have different realities on the inside.

They all have different experiences. They all have different ways of looking at the world.

It is that kind of cognitive diversity that you need to leverage when you’re building an innovation team.  Developing new innovative products and services requires a cognitively diverse group.

The volume and quality of ideas are so much more significant when realities clash. When you pull teams together that can cross realities, they can take elements of their own realities and combine them into something new, something more significant than the sum of its parts.

Look beyond just physical diversity and look to the diversity of experience. Deliver these alternate realities of individuals into the ideation team, and you’ll never know what disruptive innovations you can get out of them.