By Safaraz Ali

Do ‘great minds think alike’ all the time? And should they? ‘Great minds think alike’ rolls of the tongue on a frequent basis, usually jocularly; whether it’s when ordering the same meal as a friend, or expressing the same opinion as them. Yet if great minds always agreed, the world would lack the innovation and individuality that makes the everyday exciting.

The second half of this phrase is not so famous – ‘fools seldom differ.’

In my experience, this is more accurate. I’m not suggesting we should disagree with someone for the sake of it, but are there times when we nod in agreement simply because we can’t be bothered, or are too afraid, to challenge someone?

Success comes from great minds, but even more so when these great minds can join together to pool a variety of perspectives and opinions that may be at odds. As business leaders, it’s key to ensure that we’re always driving conversation and encouraging debate. This is vital for creating a thriving business, as new perspectives can often lead to the status quo being challenged, which in turn forces us to innovate and grow both individuals and as businesses.

It’s why diversity in business is so important. We need great minds from different backgrounds, different genders, and different ethnic groups to create a wealth of exciting and innovative ideas. Gather a group of people who all have the same upbringing and life experiences, and you’ll probably find they can’t bring anything different to the table.

Diversity in the business world is improving, but it’s not quite there yet. It’s widely acknowledged that many companies still lack women and members of BME groups in senior positions, but many companies are still failing to address this, and thus are missing out on a plethora of different perspectives. People from different walks of life see things in different ways. Just because you can’t find the solution to a problem doesn’t mean somebody else can’t solve it instantly. All of these different perspectives can come together for the greater good of your business, to help each other to succeed, and to help the business as a whole reach it goals. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”

So, how could you benefit from having a mix of great minds in your business?

A Creative Boost

Gathering a variety of different views will inspire and cultivate a creative environment. Regularly bringing together a diverse team to brainstorm will help you discover new ways of looking at your business and how you can develop solutions to suit everyone.

Different Skills

It’s simple; the more diverse your workforce, the more likely you are to have a mix of different skills. For example, employing someone from a non-UK or US background can offer you the advantage of a bilingual employee, which could help you move into new markets and communicate with a new customer base.

Be more open to different CVs. Have you previously only considered employing university-educated applicants, for example? Broaden your horizons and consider what other skills someone may have to benefit your business and complement the rest of your team.

Relate to Your Customers

One of the most important things for someone when they’re making a purchasing decision is people. If a potential customer doesn’t feel like they fit in with your business, they’re unlikely to feel comfortable buying from you. How can you relate to customers from different walks of life if your employees don’t come from diverse backgrounds?

Inspire a Future Workforce

Many young people are put off certain jobs because they can’t picture themselves in the role. This is often due to a lack of representation. Remember the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign a couple of years ago? Women engineers used the hashtag to smash the stereotype of the engineering industry being predominantly male-dominated, thus helping to inspire a future workforce of young women. By employing a diverse workforce, you’re opening your door to the future great minds.

When you think of great minds, consider all the different ways in which they can be great. While some people may be great decision-makers, others might have a creative streak. Some may understand your industry very well, while others might be able to offer an outsider’s perspective. By having a mix of different people involved in a meeting, or by assigning a diverse group of people a problem to solve, you can can utilize different people’s strengths and get the best results for your business.

Take a look at your team. What do you see? Does everybody in the room look, act, and think in the same way? Were they educated at the same schools, or live in the same neighborhoods? If your answer to these questions is ‘no,’ you’re likely on the right track. And if you’re on the right track, you’ll probably find as you go through your business journey that great minds aren’t so alike after all – and that’s a win for every business leader.