Monday, June 13, 2016 News From NEXT: Diversity's Goal Is Improved Decision Making, Not Consensus Increasing diversity in the boardroom and other groups results in better decisions. That was the take-home message from the NEXT 2016 session "Beyond Women in the Boardroom: Cognitive Diversity in Private Practice." Session panelists were Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, John Childs, PT, PhD, MBA, FAPTA, Julie Fritz, PT, PhD, FAPTA, and Claire Coonan, LCSW. "To make better—and wiser—decisions, we need to embrace cognitive diversity and collective intelligence," Coonan said. She listed 3 barriers to collective intelligence: Self-silencing behaviors. Team members can tend to be reluctant to speak up. Factors such as gender, ethnicity, educational achievement, and financial status all can affect a person's willingness to speak. Social punishment. Team members can tend to criticize views by other team members. Team diversity can reduce the likelihood of such criticism, as can validation of opposing views. Cascading effects, also known as "group think." Team members can tend to agree with a viewpoint expressed early in discussion. "The job of a leader is to get other people to contribute, to draw them out," Coonan said. Bluntly, she said, "Ignoring collective intelligence can lead to collective stupidity." Research suggests that factors correlating with increased group intelligence include equal participation by group members, the ability to read the emotional states of others, and the presence of more women in the group. She added, "The goal is to create an environment that encourages diverse thought. Consensus is not the goal. Access to all relevant information is the goal." Fritz addressed 4 patterns of gender bias that exist in the workplace: Prove it again. Women repeatedly have to prove their competence. The tightrope. Women must walk a tight rope between being perceived as either too weak or too aggressive. Maternal wall. Women are expected to change their commitment to work once they become mothers. Tug-of-war. Women often are harder on other women than they are on men. Childs discussed cognitive diversity, defined as "the extent to which the group reflects differences in knowledge, including beliefs, preferences, and perspectives." He said that research shows that socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups. But he acknowledged, "It's hard to surround yourself with people with opinions different from yours. Getting to consensus won't be easy. You have to become comfortable being uncomfortable." Returning to the definition of diversity, Jannenga said, "It's not specifically race, ethnicity, general, or sexual orientation. It's about bringing together multiple individuals with different ideas, perspectives, and creative influences." Specifically addressing physical therapy settings, she said, "It's not just about diversity among physical therapists. It's your front office and back office. It's physical therapist assistants. And it's the community, and their understanding of physical therapy." The panelists also discussed how the concept of diversity varies among generations. Childs said, "We Gen-Xers had diversity rammed down our throats. Millennials see it more as a business approach, to optimize the outcome. Previously, diversity was tied to social justice, not business outcomes." Fritz agreed, saying, "Millennials frame diversity as a means to a business outcome." Jannenga described how her company promotes diversity in the hiring process. "We hire for culture first. We ask hiring questions that are experiential. We have interviews not just with the hiring manager but also with the team that person will be working with. We see it as peeling back the layers of the onion to better understand the individual." Responding to a question from the audience on what the ideal board would look like, Jannenga answered, "We would have a representative from each relevant stakeholder. Ideally, we would have at least 2 of each [to minimize self-silencing behaviors and social punishment traits]. But I wouldn't assign a percentage to each. Actually, you already may have more diverse group than you think. You just may not be pulling out their views." Want more news from APTA's 2016 NEXT Conference and Exposition? Visit www.apta.org/NEXT/News/.