Diversity’s New Frontier

We’re live at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit! NextGen is a two-day training summit aimed at inspiring and educating rising government leaders. The sessions and workshops presented are jam packed with information to further enhance their day-to-day career and the betterment of government overall.

One of the breakout sessions, Diversity’s New Frontier, focused on diversity in the government workplace. Speakers included:

Anesa “Nes” Diaz-Uda, Senior Consultant, Federal Strategy & Operations, Deloitte Consulting
Jason Matheny, Program Manager, IARPA
Carmen Medina, Specialist Leader in Strategy & Operations, Deloitte Consulting
Beth Schill, Research Program Manager, Partnership for Public Service

So what is the new frontier? Diversity of thought. Basically, this means every person has a unique understanding of the world and therefore, has a different perspective and brings value in different ways. Government agencies can leverage diversity of thought and various thinking/creative styles to be more efficient, overcome challenges and better serve constituents.

Specifically, diversity of thought can:

  • Increase the scale of ideation
  • Help agencies tackle their most difficult challenges
  • Guard against groupthink and expert overconfidence

A lot of research has been conducted in recent years to see ways in which diversifying thought can help government be more accurate in their predictions, reliable and helpful. One experiment going on right now is IARPA’s Aggregative Contingent Estimation. IARPA is attempting to cancel out cognitive biases by aggregating the judgments of many forecasts, looking at people with different education levels, backgrounds, languages spoken, age etc. They found that taking the top 2% of forecasters (people that were the most accurate), pooling them, and running a regression is more accurate than asking the pool of 10,000+. What is interesting is that the people that are most accurate are not always “experts.” In fact, they range from PHD experts to undergraduate students.

What can you do at your agency to encourage diversity of thought:

  • Hire differently- Find strategic skills gaps and hire with debate in mind ex. SAP is hiring employees with Autism
  • Manage differently- Facilitate diversity tension and give permission- agencies and managers need to encourage people to bring their “true selves” to work and encourage healthy conflict.
  • Advance differently- Drive career sponsorship and team-based evaluation- look for mentors that will challenge you and is different than you

Our experiences (whatever they may be) play a huge role in how we think. Government agencies should be thinking about diversity not in terms of numbers or meeting quotas, but in terms of diversity of thought and creativity. Hiring different people, encouraging conflict and being truly diverse in opinions/thoughts can help agencies address complex challenges and successfully advance their mission.

Interested in helping out with these forecasting studies? Check out the links below:

Geopolitical forecasting: goodjudgmentproject.com

Science and Tech forecasting: daggre.org

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Beth Schill

Hi Amy – thanks so much for the write up on our session today. It was a great honor to contribute to such a wonderful event. Nes Diaz-Uda also has a great follow up article on her blog post.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Thanks for sharing Amy! I like the concept of diversity of thought/opinion. Too often in the government, dissenting opinions are discouraged and “groupthink” becomes the norm. This often is a result of who we hire, invite to meetings, and listen to. We need to open our communications to allow for a diversity of thought. Diversity has many dimensions!