Diversity of Thought Drives Inclusion, Business Gains at ConAgra Foods

Over the past several years, a leader’s ability to be inclusive of diversity of thought and leverage it through Whole Brain® Thinking has become a strategic engagement and business enabler at ConAgra Foods—and experts in the D&I field are taking notice.

In December, Diversity Journal recognized ConAgra’s Diversity of Thought approach as one of ten recipients of its 12th Annual International Innovation in Diversity Awards.

We caught up with Angela Jones, SPHR, Vice President Human Resources, and Damita Byrd, Manager Corporate Diversity & Inclusion, to learn more about their groundbreaking program. Here’s what they told us:

We recognize that diversity takes on many forms. So when our senior leadership team identified “innovation” as a new operating principle, our D&I team did research and found that leveraging diversity of thought was a requirement for driving innovation.

In the fall of 2013, we introduced the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®) assessment to unleash Whole Brain® Thinking and diversity of thought. The original intent was to assess, apply and share individual thinking preferences, but the initiative quickly expanded.

We work with leaders to create a roadmap to fully leverage all thinking preferences—analytical, structured, interpersonal, visionary—to improve team performance and better serve stakeholders. As part of this, we take intact teams through interactive activities that show the team how their individual thinking preferences roll-up to their collective team thinking styles, both under normal conditions and under stress.

Each team member is debriefed on their personal assessment and receives coaching on how to stretch to leverage all four quadrants of their brain to get to more creative solutions. The team leader is given a team review to see who is positioned in roles leveraging their strengths. The group session is designed to help the team understand how to be inclusive and most efficiently leverage each other’s different capabilities against the team’s stated business objectives.

A happy consequence of this initiative is that it has also helped with facilitating resolution of traditional diversity conflicts in both peer-to-peer and boss-subordinate relationships. We have situations where individuals assumed their conflict was based on gender or ethnic bias. When the pair sees the difference in their thinking preferences, they are able to see a different reality and align on common ground to improve the relationship with acceptance and understanding. We also use thinking preferences as a way to start hard conversations around inclusion.

We have found two additional innovative ways to use the HBDI® profile results. First, we bring together two teams that need to operate well together. We compare and contrast the team profiles and develop a joint two- to four-hour session to discern how the differences are affecting matrix performance and how to leverage this new knowledge to accelerate collaboration.

Second, we have used the HBDI® Text Profile to assess a customer strategy against our service strategy for that customer to uncover potential gaps in the approach and then create plans to improve the customer interface.    

We now have seven HBDI® Certified Practitioners and have held over 50 team and pair sessions, reaching almost every function in the organization. The impact has been clear to the lines of business: Since integrating diversity of thought into our diversity curriculum, training requests from business partners have increased 28%.

Congratulations to ConAgra Foods for this well-deserved award!

If you’re looking for tools and tips on how to leverage diversity of thought as part of a D&I strategy that drives business results, be sure to check out our Diversity of Thought Resources page.

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The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.

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