Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 11th Mind

I recently came across the work of Fred Keeton who is Vice President for External Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, Harrah's. Harrah's is the world's largest gaming company.

While Mr. Keeton ensures there is diverse representation of identity groups in the business, he also has another intent - cognitive diversity. His goal is to 'yield-manage' diversity to generate views radically different from the norm, and generate solutions to customer needs in new and compelling ways. He says in one interview, "The performance potential of any team depends upon the number and relevance of diverse cognitive tools it possesses".

The approach to collaboration at Harrah's can be summed up in the phrase - Diversity by Design. The term 'design' points to the fact that to yield-manage diversity a structured approach is needed, rather than simply putting a diverse team of people together and saying, "OK, show me the magic." The approach consists of the following steps:

1. Have a clearly defined business goal
2. Put together a diverse team with relevant dimensions of diversity considering the business goal
3. Create a safe environment - no fear of repercussion
4. Ensure all team member ideas are heard. The best idea wins
5. Ensure a formal structure and process to both synthesize and distill from the many ideas an actionable, scalable and sustainable solution

What struck me most was not so much the process, but an image (which, perhaps, tells you something about my own cognitive processing style). It is the image of the 11th mind.

Suppose you have a team of 10 diverse people, what the collaboration should produce is a collectively generated team member - the 11th member resulting from the active collaboration. A mind smarter than the other ten; the mind holding the best business solution.

To end with more words from Fred Keeton - "Rather than simply counting heads, our approach ensures that we make heads count."