Diversity comes in many forms. For companies, an under-prioritized version is cognitive diversity—how someone perceives and prefers to solve challenges. Valerie Jacobs, LPK’s Chief Growth Officer, and Deni Tato, founder of Corporate Consciousness, discuss the importance of shaping a high-powered, highly divergent team of thinkers.
This is Part II of a two-part feature. To read the first piece, focused on the Enneagram as a tool for self-discovery and nurturing your company’s culture, head here.
Valerie Jacobs: Deni, as someone who’s been working with the Enneagram for years, you’ve gone in and helped coach a lot of companies on self-discovery and healthier collaboration. Big corporations, small startups, all over the world. What has surprised you most?
Deni Tato: The great news is: powerful, high-performing companies are prioritizing tools like the Enneagram. Leaders have a strong sense of self—and of self-awareness—and that helps them be better mentors and better colleagues. But you’d be stunned to know how often I meet teams where everyone is the same few Enneagram types.
VJ: And that means everyone is thinking in the same way.
“Companies are shocked when I show
them how little cognitive diversity they
really have. Shocked.”
DT: Exactly. I walk into a room at a Fortune 500 and people might look different and speak differently—but they all think the same way. And that’s largely due to HR recruitment strategies rooted in more of the same. “This is what good looks like. Give me more of that.” Now we know that cognitive diversity is imperative to innovation. To creativity. To workplace culture.
VJ: It almost seems the Enneagram is a tool for individual self-discovery, but also company self-discovery.
DT: Yes, companies are shocked when I show them how little cognitive diversity they really have. Shocked. If you’re in a room full of type 8s, you’re going to see a lot of assertive characters.
VJ: Type 8 is the Protector. They’re all about pursuing the truth and keeping things within their control. Incredibly effective leaders, but they tend to hide their vulnerability.
“Too many businesses are weeding out the exact people they desperately need.”
DT: Right, the crusader. They’re out for progress, but their motivations can show up as talking over others. A relentless bias to action. Maybe solving for a problem that isn’t even the right one. If you’re missing, for example, heart-centered types, or individualist deep thinkers, that’s a huge deficit.
VJ: Same thing could happen with too many heart-centered types. A room that’s full of 2 Types, for example.
DT: That’s going to be a group deeply focused on how people feel. And frankly, worrying too much about hurt feelings and perceptions—to the the point that they never move to action.
VJ: And you can see how a company might think that approach makes sense—that it’s just more efficient and enjoyable to have like-minded people.
DT: Absolutely! Otherwise, it’s chaotic and messy, right? But right from the get-go, too many businesses are weeding out the exact people they desperately need.
“Self-awareness is a secret weapon for a workplace.”
VJ: And tools like the Enneagram can help tame the mess. I know at LPK, it really helps us get underneath the surface of conflict and make sense of people, so you have healthy, transparent discussions. And more transformational results.
DT: Ideally, a healthy company would have a good balance of all Enneatypes. And you need to keep an eye on the balance not just overall, but on specific teams. The cognitive diversity gained from bringing at least five different styles together will take things so much further, versus a group of people who all approach solutions with the same lens.
VJ: That self-awareness (and awareness of the group dynamic) is a secret weapon for a workplace.
DT: It’s an enormous gift to diversify in this way.
Deni Tato is a certified Enneagram teacher, trainer and executive/life coach who is committed to lifelong learning. She continually deepens her knowledge and gifts through her accreditations and continuing education. She’s certified in Spiral Dynamics® and by The Enneagram in Business. Additionally, she serves as a senior member of The Enneagram in Business Network and is an accredited member of the International Enneagram Association. Deni applies her passion, boundless energy and business savvy to help fuel each client’s personal and professional growth.