Intellectual diversity is more than simply hiring people that look different than one another or who have different degrees. Intellectual diversity focuses on the cognitive differences that we have – our different perspectives, ways we interpret information, or approaches to problem solving.

While there is clear guidance on how to encourage diversity in hiring, promoting thought diversity involves more than quotas and checklists. How do you ensure an office environment that promotes a diverse range of thoughts and experiences?

A major way to bring about intellectual diversity is through recruiting efforts. Recruiters can focus on not just checking the boxes for the relevant skills or degrees, but also emphasize hiring individuals with diverse interests and skills. But recruiting efforts aren’t the only way to bring about intellectual diversity. 

Love the Ones You’re With

All too often, the coworker who takes a different approach can be seen as negative or hard to work with, but changing your perspective and valuing those differences is vital to innovation. It is easier to not focus on finding commonality every step of the way, but rather focus on finding elements of commonality in the strategy, solution, or end goal. Differences in approaches or end goals can expand the solution options. 

You can encourage coworkers to celebrate thought diversity with scheduling extras, like book clubs or brown bag lunches. Coordinating “extracurricular” work activities requires effort and leadership, but these extra events provide an avenue to develop differences without the pressure of solving a real work problem. Practice makes perfect, so creating a practice environment for coworkers to explore and gain confidence in their differences will help team members understand the value in the differences.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of meetings. We often complain about the quantity of meetings in our workday, but meetings are opportunities to practice thought diversity. They are an opportunity to engage with coworkers who might function differently and to encourage different perspectives, solutions, or goals. The most efficient method isn’t always your method. Allowing and seeking input from others can influence change within the federal government workforce.

Intellectual diversity thrives under leaders who value it too, but don’t blame the status of the federal government solely on your leaders. Make small changes and implement them where you can, regardless of where you are in the pecking order.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.