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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

Have you tried to build a duck out of Lego? I have. And the experience resulted in an incredible epiphany.

At a recent conference where I was delivering a Weology keynote, I found myself drawn to one of the breakout sessions. Forty people were in the room, sitting at six or seven tables. I was curious and decided to join the session. Each person was provided with a bag of Lego. Each bag of Lego contained the same number (8), shape and colour of Lego pieces.

The request from the facilitator, Jason Little, was: individually, make a duck with your Lego. So, each of us created a duck, and then Jason asked us to look around the room and share what we observed about each other's work. Amazingly, not a single duck was the same.

What occurred to me immediately was: how could we harness that amazing diversity of thought? And why is it that when we make decisions we are only presented with 1-3 options or ideas? I realized in that moment that many ideas are being filtered out somehow. We must be missing something.

Most business people only want to present an idea when it's 95 per cent formed, and they have data to prove it. Often, people unconsciously – maybe even consciously – find data to support the path they have chosen. That's how opportunities are missed.

Leaders talk so much about diversity. But when you have achieved diversity of thought, are you harnessing it? Or are there biases that don't allow you to get all of the benefits you were hoping for? With diversity there must be inclusion. People with different perspectives need to be and feel included.

With a more inclusive culture – where more people are involved in the decision-making process, where employees feel inspired to think and are empowered to share, you can take multiple ideas and ultimately end up with a better product, experience, process for your clients.

I encourage our employees to present ideas that are 50 per cent complete, so that the team can run with them and turn them into something, in a more collaborative way. And do you know the alchemy of true collaboration? It's when no one remembers whose idea it was in the first place.

True diversity comes when your organization possesses diversity of thought. This comes from having people who have enjoyed (or endured) different experiences – people of different gender, race, nationality, educational background, socio-economic status, etc.

True diversity of thought is a gold mine, but without inclusiveness you'll never get the gold to the surface. Without having processes that ensure you are harnessing that diversity you've worked so hard to create, this valuable resource will stay hidden deep below the surface.

Peter Aceto (@PeterAceto) is president and chief executive officer at Tangerine Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of Nova Scotia, and best selling author of Weology: How Everybody Wins When We Comes Before Me.