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Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016: Tap into Hidden IT Talent by Embracing Thought Diversity

“Chronic Sameness” Is the Enemy of Innovation

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By: Bob Ragsdale

October 19, 2016 | Human CapitalEEOAnalysts

According to the Department of Labor, by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings in the U.S., but too few qualified graduates to fill even a third of those jobs. Unless genetically modified food sources seriously increase fertility rates, the IT industry won’t survive using current recruitment and retention practices.

Vice President and Gartner Fellow Debra Logan has been doing some original research and thinking about this problem, and she has some novel approaches. The enemy, she says, is “chronic sameness.” CIOs in particular suffer from it. More than 50% are between ages 40-49, just 14% are female, and 70% fit the ISTJ Myers Briggs personality type, meaning they are introverted, sensitive thinkers who are judgmental. That last trait doesn’t bode well for curing chronic sameness.

Invisible Diversity

These findings led Logan to focus not on gender, race, or other visible types of diversity but instead on a potent but invisible driver of innovation: thought diversity. Thought diversity is the unique combination of perspectives, emotions, and experiences that informs how individuals think, act, and problem solve. Teams that include a mix of diverse personality types will attack problems from different viewpoints and arrive at different solutions. That’s innovation.

According to Gartner’s 2016 CIO survey, the biggest barrier to CIO success is talent issues (22%). The biggest talent gaps are in the areas of information/analytics (40%) and business acumen (18%). That’s good news: nearly 50% of the talent gap can be filled by recruiting beyond the traditional computer science pool to attract people with analytic minds and some technical aptitude. That opens the doors to historians, chemists, architects, musicians, and so on.

Widen Your Options

One of the main complaints Gartner analysts hear is “We can’t get our business leaders to understand why we need to do this.” That lack of a common language, much less business acumen, can be bridged by creating more cross-functional roles and workgroups. This tactic can also improve retention by exposing employees to different parts of the organization and opening up new career opportunities for them.

This is a new way of thinking about diversity that may not resonate with your organization. If it sounds farfetched, take a closer look. Successful organizations are filling their ranks via thought diversity today.

About the Author

Bob Ragsdale is Director of Marketing at MicroPact. Bob has over 20 years of experience leading the international marketing and branding efforts of software and technology companies at nearly every stage of development.


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