In series 4 episode 8 of the Calm Edged rebels podcast, Advita, Jenni and Trudy take a deep dive into Matthew Syed’s book, Rebel Idea: The Power of Diverse Thinking.

Without exception, they each absolutely rave about reading this inspirational book, which is filled with stirring stories and examines the power of ‘cognitive diversity’: the ability to think differently about the world around us.

“Harnessing the power of cognitive diversity is set to become a key source of competitive advantage, and the surest routes of reinvention and growth. You might even say that we are entering the age of diversity.”

This talks beyond diversity in terms of race, age, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. It focuses on diversity of thought and how bringing together different people from different backgrounds and walks of life can forge a really strong viewpoint and truly effective solutions.

Diversity of thought is so important in organisations and in our relationships at work, yet we’re raised with certain beliefs, and it takes a lot to change our minds. Here’s a roundup of top tips and takeaways about breaking free of your own information bubble and attracting voices to mix a cohesive cocktail of thinking.

Open for business: Be open to having other voices around, listening to their perspectives and viewpoints. We need an environment where others vocalised viewpoints can be heard. Where people collectively seek the better more harmonised outcome, not who’s right or who’s wrong.

Follow the leader: Sometimes a senior leader will hold the power, dominating a conversation or situation. If others in the team feel suppressed from voicing concerns or offering expert insight, speed of progress can falter and, worst of all, disaster follows. Absorbed in the task of leading, a leader often forgets the expertise in their teams that they could reach out to for help or a second opinion. 

Enter the safe and respectful positive practice of productive disagreement

Representation matters: Tokenism and speaking on other’s behalf isn’t the answer to belonging or inclusions. It’s about widening your network to bring in and amplify distinctively different views of thought to move away from your echo chamber.

Going round in circles: Expand your circles to increase your knowledge base. Write down who your circles are, where you met them, how you connect with them and, guaranteed, there’ll be patterns and gaps. Break theses ever decreasing circles by deliberately reaching out to fill the voids.

Same old same old: if you always gather a group of people together to do something, maybe go beyond who you would normally reach out to. Include them. Ask what they would do. Solicit opinions because again, if you only stick to traditional routes of thinking, you will always get the same result. As they say: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

You won’t actually get the results you want by continually addressing the same types of people. So, when it comes to building trust, leaders need to be a more transparent, open and vulnerable. Inviting people that you wouldn’t normally invite to an organisation’s discussion table not only helps foster trust but helps counteract misinformation and push past biases – even ‘quiet’ biases. Everyone has a bias but what’s important is that we make an effort to walk past our biases or acknowledge them.

Tried and trusted: Trust is fundamental to how we’re able to collaborate, cohabit and work together. If information bubbles or echo chambers distort our visions of reality, how do we learn to trust and believe people? Why we listen to certain people and don’t listen to others. As humans we’re hardwired in our need to belong. Feeling part of a group or team can be a power for good but can also be highly harmful – the Netflix film The Social Dilemma is well worth a watch.

Good intentions: Creating a sense of belonging demands you be intentional with what you do to ensure everybody is given a voice and feels safe to raise that voice and be heard.

Beyond belief: It’s so easy to build connections and ‘trust’ online. But how often do we ask ‘this is what I’m hearing on this side of story. What is going on in this side?’. With so many claiming to be experts and specialists in certain areas it’s almost impossible to detect and decipher the truth. It’s our role and responsibility as individuals living in this increasingly noisy world to vacate our information bubbles to look for data, insight and information that gives an alternative narrative. 

Syed quotes economist Michael Hausman: “The ability to question defaults makes a huge difference in a changing world”. We can’t take things at face value so question what you see and hear.

Education. Education. Education: Listen to feedback and identify what you need to do to educate yourself. It’s not about perfection or being all-knowing on every possible angle of the work and organisation you’re involved in. It’s about being better than what you’re yesterday

Venture outside your information bubble. Often, we spend too much time with people or sources that make us feel comfortable. Push into other places to learn different perspectives. It’s uncomfortable but worthwhile as great things don’t happen in the comfort zone. And beware the push and pull power of monetised algorithms.

Curiouser and curiouser: Be curious about what’s around you, the information you’re receiving. Challenge the things that you’re reading, seeing, hearing, consuming, and constantly ask questions

Remember, different people focus on and see different things in almost every situation. Some only see the facts before their eyes, others concentrate on context – and much more in between. Generally, we believe that everybody looks at things from your perspective. It’s important to respect and understand that most won’t. Create better conversations to help us move forward. 

Only the lonely: Post lockdown, in the aftermath of mass working from home and as we ride the crest of the hybrid working wave, we must make more of an effort not to be alone. Being in your own bubble is far from healthy. Get out and about, connect with people and the natural world.

And finally: If you haven’t done so already, read the book. The pages hold an abundance to help us understand how we think differently, why we think differently, the impact of the media, the role of trust and relationships in creating inclusive organisations. 

Add it to your Christmas List. Treat yourself by grabbing a copy as the autumn evenings close in. You won’t regret it.

Echo chamber v. information bubbles

Information bubbles are the most extreme form of isolation where people on the inside see only their side of the argument and nothing else. These kinds of social groups have rarely existed in modern history except in cults and other world institutions. 

Echo chambers happen when you don’t trust people from the other side. They may cut some people off from alternative views through informational filtering…. research by digital scholars Elizabeth Dubois and Grant Black found that 8% of people in the UK have such biased media exposure that they experience a distorted version of reality.

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