Encouraging Diversity Of Thought And How Legal Project Managers Can Help.

Updated: Jan 19

Encouraging diversity of thought plays an important role in creating a workplace where diversity is embraced and inclusion is inspired.. Janine Schindler, a leadership coach, describes diversity of thought as “the inclusion of people who have different ways of thinking, different viewpoints and different skill sets in a team or business group.”

Sometimes businesses can make the mistake of employing similar personality types that will fit in with company culture. However, employing people in your image or echo chamber can lead to a lack of transformation and new ideas. According to Sara Canaday, a leadership expert, “A culture that encourages (explicitly or implicitly) conformity of thought breeds stagnation and imperils a company.”

Employing and valuing people who think differently can lead to increased success and profitability for a business. Research by Deloitte in 2018 found that teams who were both cognitively and demographically diverse were the highest performing. As a legal project manager who has worked closely with in-house legal teams to monitor, deliver and evaluate projects, I’ve helped these departments improve their diversity of thought, which has benefitted the business.

David Lewis, Director of London Business School’s Senior Executive Programme and Alison Reynolds, faculty member of Ashridge Business School who conducted research on cognitive diversity recommended, “To overcome these challenges, make sure your recruitment processes identify differences and recruit for cognitive diversity. And when you face a new, uncertain, complex situation, and everyone agrees on what to do, find someone who disagrees and cherish them.”

Right from the outset, a legal project manager will determine with an in-house legal team what the objectives are, how they are going to be achieved, how progress will be communicated and the project timeframe. It’s common for many in-house legal departments to run behind schedule and over budget, and that’s where a legal project manager can help. If legal consultants are to be brought in on a temporary basis to plug the skills gap, or boost available resource, a legal project manager can be involved in deciding the cognitive diversity and skillsets these individuals need so the right people can be parachuted in to fill these gaps in thinking, as well as of course the right legal expertise.

It's important to identify what differing cognitive characteristics the team is looking for and how it will help them deliver successful project outcomes. Personality testing can be a good way of recognising and identifying the existing diversity of thinking in a team, whilst also identifying what is lacking. Using these results, legal project managers can ensure the recruitment process is tailored appropriately to find people with the diverse cognitive skills required.

Legal project managers can create a culture which encourages different opinions on ideas – therefore providing options for a better resolution. For example a good way of doing this is encouraging more junior lawyers to speak up and give their opinion. They might have a different frame of reference, coming from a different age group, background or culture. A legal project manager can help facilitate this culture, coming from a more objective position and can run idea sessions where different team members get a chance to speak. This also creates a more creative and productive working atmosphere, leading to quicker problem solving and greater cost savings. It’s also worth mentioning that diversity and inclusion consultants can work with legal project managers to support cultural change within a legal team too.

In conclusion, cognitive diversity should be valued as a meaningful way of improving an in-house legal team’s processes and efficiency. A legal project manager can be a helpful and objective individual who can themselves be part of the cognitively diverse legal team but also help to ensure the best outcomes are delivered on legal and business challenges.

Dee Tamlin, Head of Legal Project Management at Pinsent Masons Vario

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