Cognitive Diversity covers all

by Edward Henkler on April 21, 2015

It’s not the age discrimination; it’s the missed cognitive diversity opportunity

The 20-Mar-15 Philadelphia Business Journal included a wonderful article about including age as a diversity factor. The author, Craig Ey, notes the possibilities especially with millennials changing jobs so frequently. I do think he misses an opportunity with cognitive diversity which I’ll highlight a bit later.

Quoting directly from the article:

“Some companies say they can’t find a good CFO because they don’t want someone at the tail end of their career,” Dubin {Ken Dubin of The Dubin Group recruiting firm} said. “No one wants to discriminate by age but when all of your employees are 35 to 40 years old, someone who is 55 might not fit the culture. It’s a shame, because that 55-year-old might be exactly what they need in terms of work ethic and experience.”

It is a shame. Age discrimination is alive and well in the United States. And that’s particularly a problem in our modern job market, where some gurus advise not staying in any job longer than four years.


Cognitive diversity - Business communication. Conceptual illustration. Isolated on white background

Business communication. Conceptual illustration. Isolated on white background

I really liked one other phrase from the article:

Actually, though, I {Craig Ey, Editor-in-Chief-Philadelphia Business Journal} think we look at the age issue from the wrong side. We try to avoid age discrimination when what we should be doing is encouraging age diversity.

Long time readers will correctly suspect that I love the pivot from negative (age discrimination) to positive (age diversity). Age discrimination makes us worry about litigation. Age diversity makes us imagine the possibilities.

So what’s the missed opportunity? Age diversity is just another variety of physical diversity. I think the true opportunity is with cognitive diversity. Sticking with age as a factor, it is my suspicion that a 60-year-old techie thinks much more like a young techie than either thinks like someone who has spent a career in social work. Keep in mind that neither is better or worse, just different. It’s the differences that enrich a team.

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