Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Importance of Hiring Managers with Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking allows managers to find new solutions to existing organizational problems. Those that can see a problem from multiple perspectives are more likely to come to comprehensive solutions with greater impact. Tunnel Vision among managers leads to lower results and less innovative problem solving. Companies that do not consider adding divergent thinking skills to their intellectual and labor capital may find themselves with sluggish future performance. 

Divergent thinking is a process of developing multiple vantage points and ways of seeing a problem. Those with higher cognitive abilities often use multiple and simultaneous pathways to understand, analyse, solve, and implement solutions from different vantage points. Switching perspectives is important for well-rounded solutions that meet multiple stakeholder solutions. 

Divergent thinking is associated with genius and artistic ability. Neuroscientific studies have found that divergent thinking uses both hemispheres and causes higher levels of neural activation (Yoruk & Runco, 2014). Divergent thinking activates the central, temporal, and parietal regions of the brain to develop semantic processing. Semantic processing is a deeper processing than most people are capable and allows for the encoding of meaning. 

A high percentage of managers have tunnel vision and know all the answers without exploring any of the premises. Their level of mental processing is low and relies on snap judgments, hueristics and bias. This tunnel vision becomes obvious when a person cannot find multiple explanations of a problem or accept the possibilities of other alternative solutions. It is often manifested in “know it all”, close-minded, and rigid explanations. 

Most of us have probably met at one time a manager who knew all the answers, used their power to force their opinion, and ultimately was gravely mistaken in their conclusions. When executives are stuck in tunnel vision they can cost companies a lot of money as their erroneous assumptions make their way throughout their department. Strong executives explore all the possibilities to find that which is most likely to work. 

Tunnel vision is dangerous for organizations because managers who cannot see alternative possibilities run the same poor processes until they collapse. They are also likely to use the same mental tool to solve every problem. Each major problem needs its own tool from the tool shed. Tunnel vision won't even allow them to see where the tool shed is let alone what other tools it contains.

Based upon an in-depth study of 221 managers within the workplace it was found that  divergent thinking and openness come together (Scratchley & Hakstian, 2001). Managers who are open to new experiences and abilities are better at finding new ways of thinking about things. Hence, narrow minded individuals who are convinced of their “rightness” should be avoided at all costs. 

A few tips for improving divergent thinking in your company may be beneficial.

Switch Up the Executive Team: If your organization is suffering from stuffy thoughts and rehashed ideas then consider switching up your executive team. Hire some new talent, throw out a few of the old talent, and get a different way of evaluating problems. 

Rearrange Team Membership: In some organizations the same people are asked to join problem solving teams. Ensuring you are using different types of people with various backgrounds and collaborative departments will help create new ways of thinking about issues. 

Hire Creative and Open Minded People: Without having people with the cognitive ability to solve problems and create organizational innovation, the company will eventually move into the decline stage. Develop stronger selection tools that look for creativeness and open mindedness. 

Adjust Performance Metrics: What and how we reward people impacts what type of behavior they are going to exhibit. If you want them to be creative and solve problems then ensure it is reflective as a performance evaluation.

Develop an Inclusive Culture: Creative people don't come forward with ideas in hostile environments. To propose solutions requires a level of risk and a receptive environment that doesn't chastise new ideas.

Train Managers to be Critical Thinkers: Even though much is determined by personality it is still possible to train managers on to use critical thinking and make decisions is beneficial; whether or not they use them is another story.

Scratchley, L. & Hakstiane, R. (2001). The measurement and prediction of managerial creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 13 (3/4). 

 Yoruk, S. & Runco, M. (2014). The neuroscience of divergent thinking. Actitas Nervosa Superior, 56 (1/2).

No comments:

Post a Comment