Which Two Heads Are Better Than One?

Event Summary from the Women in Leadership Lunch (Collaborative Circle) hosted by CSR Limited

Many thanks to Emma Young and Cathy Goddard and the team at CSR for hosting yet another thought provoking and engaging lunch event as part of our Women in Leadership series.

“Please convey my sincere thank you to all involved in the planning and execution of the Women in Leadership function. I found the experience very interesting and informative. I enjoyed hearing about the work of other women and I look forward to further events.” Annette Solman, Chief Executive, The Health Education and Training Institute

Guests from a range of industries and enterprises gathered to explore the topic ‘Diversity in Thinking’ with Juliet Bourke, Partner, Human Capital at Deloitte. Juliet has recently released a best-selling book, Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? published by the Australian Institute of Company Directors, which explores what team diversity means in practice.

We assume that diverse points of view result in better decisions and more innovation. That’s why boards, management and innovation are encouraged to strive for teams composed of different types of people – gender, race, age, experience and so on.

Juliet maintains that such diversity is important because of the positive impact on the group dynamic. For example, studies show that gender diversity increases the feelings of psychological safety, and racial diversity increases curiosity and listening, all of which contribute to better functioning teams.

Diversity In Thinking

However, at the lunch Juliet concentrated on what she describes as the final piece of the puzzle – diversity in thinking. She explained that each of us has different priorities when we are engaged in problem solving or decision making, which she has synthesised into 6 distinct but equally important approaches. Each approach is defined by its focus on one of the following:

  • Outcomes
  • People
  • Evidence
  • Risk
  • Options
  • Process

Individuals tend to rely on one or two of these, and to undervalue the others.

For example: 75% of senior leaders concentrate only on “options” and “outcomes”. In a group decision making process these leaders not only dominate but tend to minimise the importance of the other 4. This typically leads to inferior decision making as proven by University of Michigan Professors Hong and Page. They discovered a correlation between the number of perspectives applied and the accuracy of the outcome. They identify a 30% error rate when problems are solved via the application of one dominant perspective, and a 100% accuracy rate when 5 to 8 different perspectives are applied (and too many approaches can impact negatively).

Page and Hong’s research ties in neatly with Juliet’s 6 unique problem solving approaches, and indeed Page is one of her book reviewers, lending his endorsement to her insights.

Our lunch group surveyed our own individual styles by identifying the two key questions we would ask in a problem solving scenario. It became apparent that when there is a dominance of one or two types, it is easy to dismiss or totally ignore the others.

According to Juliet, this can result in a poor process and final solution, as well as less innovation.

The challenge for each of us is not only to recognise our own preferred approach, but also to learn to respect the others and actively encourage all styles within our teams to arrive at the best possible solutions.

We thank Juliet for sharing her research with our Hargraves community. For more details, watch Juliet at TedX or read Bourke, Juliet, Which Two Heads Are Better Than One? 2016, Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Written by Tess Julian, Hargraves Institute

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