From Cognitive Dissonance to Cognitive Diversity

We are obsessed with the new and the familiar, all at the same time.

Margarita Diaz

Who doesn’t love a new twist on an old favorite?

🥤Well maybe a big percentage of Coca-Cola drinkers back in 1985.  Look up “New Coke failure” for the story, if you’re not familiar.

But generally speaking, we value something new that we can still identify with.

Something new, yet familiar.

Otherwise, newness that clashes with our beliefs or practices can create discomfort.

The Dissonance

Apparent contradictions or inconsistencies make us uncomfortable, and rightfully so.

⚠️ They might indicate a lack of truthfulness, sincerity, validity, or soundness of judgment, depending on the context.

But sometimes the discomfort arises merely from the tension between ideas and/or actions we just aren’t used to seeing or experiencing together . . .

Creating a cognitive dissonance 🥴.

You see, our brains like consistency and familiarity, and this affinity underlies many of our cognitive biases.

Yet ironically, we live in inconsistencies all the time that do not create a cognitive dissonance.

Some Examples

☝🏼 We value innovation.

😮 But it often takes a lot of convincing to get people to try the novel approaches that lead to such innovation.

☝🏼We don’t want to scroll through social media and see the same old stuff.

🥴 But algorithms predict what we like, based on what we liked, and it works.

☝🏼We value diversity.

🤨 But some might support, work with or provide services primarily (or exclusively) to members of their own social groups, in the name of diversity.

☝🏼 We’re attracted to different cultures.

😧 But are (culture) shocked when they are in fact, quite different.

❓Did any of these sound familiar?

We value the new as long as it’s still familiar.

This creates a challenge for the type of diversity that can lead to better problem-solving: cognitive diversity.

Cognitive Diversity

Cognitive diversity is diversity of thinking styles, perspectives and thoughts.

Different approaches, methods, ideas and opinions can break through impasses or lead to better or more creative solutions.

⚠️ But what happens when we are in the company of people who all think very differently or hold different views?

⚠️ What happens when different thinking styles or perspectives lead to different conclusions?

Often, we get conflict.

And when we anticipate conflict from differences, the idea that we can make harmony from differences creates a dissonance.

Our minds think “I can’t have agreement amidst differences.”

‼️ So unless we unlink 🔗 “differences” from “conflict” in our minds, we will tend to avoid the very type of cognitive diversity that could improve collaborative problem-solving and deliver better solutions so we can get here:

☝🏼We want better problem-solving.

👏 So we welcome diversity of thought.

How can we do this?

▪️A lot of differences are a matter of degrees. Find a point of commonality (often it’s a shared goal) to shift your mind from conflict to creativity.

▪️Practice respectful disagreement, which is NOT “agreeing to disagree” without hearing each other.  It’s walking away with a better understanding of the other person’s perspective, as well as your own.

▪️To shift from potential conflict to productive disagreements:

👉🏼 Replace criticism with curiosity.

👉🏼 Seek clarification before getting defensive.

👉🏼 Really listen; don’t rush to shut down.

👉🏼 Avoid labeling and generalizing a person or group based on an expressed view.

▪️And remember that differences can compliment rather than clash, depending on what we get accustomed to.

🥤”New Coke” didn’t work out, but over 30 years later, are we ready for a new take on diversity?

Reflection Questions

❓Which inconsistencies in your daily life can you live with and which make you 🥴?

❓Where have you found harmony amidst big differences rather than conflict, unexpectedly?

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