Graham Birkenhead, June 26 2019

Diverse Thinking - Your Team's Secret Weapon

I’m a great fan of diversity in the work place – not just those more obvious visible aspects, or the broad range of cultural perspectives and experiential insights that people can bring, but also the way we are all wired differently. This is known as *neuro-diversity.

Neuro-diversity can give a team strength by allowing it to ‘see different and to think different’ and come up with creative and innovative answers or solutions. Recognising it will allow you to tap into enormous potential that is often hidden in plain sight.

But how do you recognise it? When it comes to problem-solving and decision-making, I often see people getting frustrated with their colleagues as they don't appreciate that they are using slightly (or very) different thought processes to their own. Some people say nothing but are thinking things through and find noise (like other people talking) a distraction. Some do all the talking and get frustrated with other people that aren’t speaking up and contributing.  Some seem to be making huge generalisations and jumping to conclusions while others are questioning or challenging everything. Recognising that these are all part of the normal range of human thinking can help ensure that a lot of intellect that would otherwise be unused can be added into the problem-understanding and decision-making process.

There are lots of personality-type analysis tools that can be used to improve self-understanding and to develop higher performing teams such as MBTI, DISC, Colours, Enneagram etc, etc, etc. These can be very useful, and the follow-on discussions can have a profound impact on workplace dynamics and productivity. But sometimes a simple tool to recognise the style of an individual person or small group is really all a manager (or consultant) needs.

One such tool that I use is the A-D continuum. Basically, it says that you position people’s problem-understanding and decision-making style along a simple continuum. In our A-D continuum, A stands for Analyst and D stands for Decider:

The reality is that people are spread all along the continuum – there are relatively few extreme versions of these types, but they (maybe you) are out there. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. However, left alone, the D’s find the A’s frustrating because of the time it takes to make progress while they thoroughly investigate an issue.  The As find the Ds frustrating because they make decisions and set off on a course of action without fully understanding the situation. However, a team with a good mix of types that understands each other’s problem-understanding and deciding styles can be very powerful. And working together, these 2 styles can have the best of both worlds; the D’s keep the team moving and the A’s ensure that the number of wild assumptions are kept to a minimum.

Of course, this tool makes a huge generalisation about people, but you can detect general patterns and use them to the team’s benefit.



If you want to discuss or find out more – you know where I am.

* I prefer to take the broader definition of neuro-diversity which recognises that everyone is wired differently.  There are some narrower definitions that focus on things such as Dyslexia, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others.

Written by

Graham Birkenhead


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