How do Leaders Affect the Cognitive Diversity?

February 5, 2018

Many cases confirm that the Cognitive Diversity (groups of individuals with distinct mental maps) can promote a greater framework of creative ideas and, consequently, foment the innovation in the organizations.

Executives, however, are facing the dilemma: how do you construct such collaborative groups?

The reply is not simple, as all the subjects that involve Social Sciences, but new academic studies have brought promising findings. A good start can be the agreement of the organizational dynamics from the attitudes of the high level executives.

Before anything else, executives are human beings that catch situations in accordance with its beliefs and values; they interpret the reality by their own selective perception; and takes decisions according to interpretations based on their experience of life.

At the same time, their attitudes and behaviors are interpreted as models to be followed by the collaborators of the organization, being  conscious or not. For example, if the directors of a determined company start to only hire young managers, this behavior will be understood by the group as expected and could be emulated. Age will become a salient category, that is, an excellent criterion for hiring and promoting. This social categorization will be able to generate changes in the composition of the organizacional demography: a young group tends to hire younger professional (classic theories in Social Psychology support that the human being tends to feel more comfortable with those they feel alike) and thus the process intensifies. As time passes by, this vicious circle can become one obstacle for the new and creative ideas framework construction, since the management group is sufficiently homogeneous. Facing a crisis, for example, they will not be able to count on experienced professionals who would bring experiences from last turbulences.

Summarizing, executives in high positions of leadership are important in the construction of the sense, but their decisions are subject to their obliquities ¹. Budget supported by high level executives can intensify or attenuate the perception of the diversity climate in the organizations ². Then, it is important to access the mental map of the directive group as a first step before initiating any process of change with focus on the diverse.


¹ HAMBRICK, D. C. Upper Echelons Theory: an update. Academy of Management Review, v. 32, n. 2, p. 334-343, 2007.

² KUNZE, F.; BOEHM, S.; BRUCH, H. Organizational performance consequences of age diversity: Inspecting the role of diversity-friendly HR policies and top managers' negative age stereotypes. Journal of Management Studies, v. 50, n.3, p.413-442, 2013.


Alessandra H. V. Miyazaki is an associated senior Consulting in the BMI Blue Management Institute. For more than 20 years, Alessandra in front of teams of high performance in the commercial area, in corporate companies such as  Johnson & Johnson, Pharmacia (today part of Pfizer) and Bayer. In 2009 it was expatriated by Bayer to the United States as Global Brand Leader (Aspirin), where she had the opportunity to orchestrate global campaigns for the mark and development of new products (extensions of line).

Her solid academic base includes a Master' degree in Human Being Management, with focus in Diversity and Culture and specialization in Marketing. She is also teacher of Strategy, Marketing, Negotiation and Strategic People Management of the post-graduation Lato Sensu course (MBA) of FGV-Foundation Getúlio Vargas and alumni of the Georgetown University, Washington D.C.