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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Chase

The Unseen edge in Executive Recruitment: Embracing Cognitive Diversity

Within the dynamic landscape of corporate leadership, diversity has been pivotal in shaping progressive and dynamic workplaces. However, there's an aspect of diversity that often escapes the attention of executive recruitment processes: cognitive diversity. This form of diversity encompasses the unique ways in which individuals perceive, think, reason, and solve problems. Unlike more overt forms of diversity like age, ethnicity, and gender, cognitive diversity is less visible, often existing beneath the surface of standard recruitment metrics.

Cognitive diversity or thinking style refers to the varied problem-solving styles and thinking approaches individuals bring to the table. It's an integral element in fostering innovation and effective decision-making within an organization. Yet, its importance is frequently overshadowed by more tangible qualifications and experiences during the executive recruitment process.

In this issue of The Bright Spark, Chase Partners LLC looks into the reasons behind this oversight. Firstly, there's a general lack of awareness among leadership teams regarding the significant impact of cognitive diversity. It's only when the phrase hired on level and fired on style is reached that it's significance becomes obvious. The traditional focus leans towards visible diversity factors, leaving the more subtle yet impactful cognitive aspects in the shadows. Additionally, the recruitment processes are often structured around assessing tangible skills and experiences. As a result, the abstract nature of thinking and problem-solving styles may not be adequately prioritized or even assessed. 

However, appreciating diverse thinking styles and problem-solving approaches is not straightforward. But measurement is. While quantifiable scientifically and robust, assessment tools for cognitive diversity exist, they are not widely known or used by leadership teams. Moreover, the recruitment process often gravitates towards candidates who align with the existing corporate culture, favoring familiarity over cognitive diversity - people hire people similar to themselves.  This preference can inadvertently lead to a homogenized leadership, lacking in innovative thinking and problem-solving dynamism. Moreover, executive recruitment is often pressed for time, prioritizing efficiency over a thorough exploration of a candidate's cognitive style. This rushed process might overlook the critical aspect of cognitive diversity, considering it too time-consuming to assess.

To truly embrace cognitive diversity, there needs to be a paradigm shift in how executive recruitment is approached. It's about recognizing and valuing the different ways people think and approach problems; or putting soft skills sometimes above the hard skills. We know this approach involves going beyond the traditional checklist of qualifications and experiences, exploring how a candidate’s unique cognitive style could contribute to the organization's growth and innovation and comparing these criteria to those leaders already in your organization. Last year Forbes addressed this challenge by interviewing more than 25 leading executive search firms, C Suite Executives and TA specialists. 

Integrating cognitive diversity into executive recruitment strategies is not just an option but becoming a necessity for organizations aiming to stay ahead in a rapidly changing complex world. It’s about enriching the leadership with diverse perspectives, enhancing decision-making, and driving innovative solutions. The challenge lies in moving beyond conventional hiring practices, integrating the hiring practice into the strategic decision, embracing diversity of thought, and leveraging it as a strategic advantage in the competitive corporate arena. 

While cognitive diversity isn’t new, how we use it can be!

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