The Importance of Embracing Diversity in an Ever-Changing World

How do we embrace and leverage diversity in a digital world? Colin Yeow, Deputy CEO of Emergenetics Asia Pacific shares with us his thoughts as part of the inaugural SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @ WeWork co-organised by Emergenetics Asia Pacific and Lifelong Learning Institute.

What is the digital world?
The digital world is, according to Colin Yeow, ‘not in the future, it’s in the now’. The never-ceasing growth of new technology is undoubtedly increasingly affecting and impacting our lives, regardless of our demographics. With this, comes a new era – the Fourth Industrial Revolution that marks the birth and growth of further digitisation and cyber physical systems which includes the use of big data, augmented reality, the internet of things, autonomous robots, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, just to name a few.

Things are changing so quickly in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) age, probably faster than some of us can keep up. Listening to Colin’s preamble, I thought about the importance of being prepared for the changes the future will bring to my generation and the next.

What will change?
When Colin shared some statistics taken from World Economic Forum on what work will be like for our future generation, it sure made me sit up and take notice. Two sets of statistics from the World Economic Forum report surprised me: “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new jobs that don’t exist yet” and that “by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.” The diagram below taken from the report presents the top 10 desired core skill sets of most occupations according to the World Economic Forum.


Future of Jobs_WEC_Emergenetics Asia Pacific


These statistics were also backed up by a recent online poll done by our own company, Emergenetics APAC. Results from the poll indicate that Critical Thinking, People Management, Creativity, and Emotional Intelligence are the top 4 most important skills to master.

A big aspect that we need to review with the rise of the digital world is our workspaces. Are they optimised to support the development of the skills needed? When Colin posed this question to the audience, some from the audience shared that their own workspaces may not be, although a lot depends on the person’s job scope and needs. For instance, workspaces with cubicles are more suited for high focus work, while workspaces with open concept may be more suitable for idea generation. Colin rounded up the discussion on workspaces by asking the audience to think about their own workspaces with the perspective that the nature of work may change and that different skills may be required for the future. He asked: “What’s your workspace like? Do you feel that there are any improvements you can make to support the development of skills you desire to develop?”

What can we do to leverage diversity in a digital world?
The saying ‘the only constant is change’ may be cliché, but it does not make it any less true. In this era, people are diverse, jobs are changing, and workspaces are adapting. With so many variables, how do we leverage diversity?

Colin shared a few aspects that have helped him and our team members in Emergenetics to leverage diversity in a digital world while focusing on three broad desired outcomes:

  • Boosting collaboration
  • Improving communication
  • Building community

Firstly, appreciating cognitive diversity by understanding how fellow team members prefer to think and behave is key to embrace diversity. Each person has his/her own unique set of preferences, from the way they embrace change, understand concepts, working solo versus in a team, and so on. Colin shared that this insight is vital to leverage diversity to tailor what works for each individual to keep up in this digital world. With the Emergenetics Profile, team members can understand the strengths and blind spots of each individual, and find out how to leverage each other’s preferences to create strategies to achieve the desired outcome. Only then are we able to utilise cognitive collaboration where different members can provide multiple perspectives to solve problems. With Emergenetics being the common language in an organization, communication can be improved, resulting in stronger engagement, better performance, and ultimately, deliver business results.

Colin gave an example that I am familiar with. The Emergenetics team recently shifted their home from a 3-storey shophouse in Keong Saik Road to a cosy corner unit in WeWork Beach Centre, a co-working space that places a great deal of emphasis on community-building and achieving personal fulfilment while at the same time, being part of a greater community. When the management of Emergenetics APAC team huddled to deliberate the decision of the big shift, they decided to make the leap after considering the diverse needs of the team members vis-à-vis what WeWork can offer by taking the Whole Emergenetics approach (WEapproach) where preference of all the seven Emergenetics attribute are taken into consideration to ensure a wholesome, all-rounded approach. This WEapproach can be applied in different aspects of professional and personal life to make sure that decisions are made with both strength and blind spots having been taken into consideration.

Another aspect of leveraging diversity mentioned by Colin is through understanding Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory. The theory states that factors for satisfaction are not opposite of factors for dissatisfaction.  What this means is that if you remove factors that contribute to dissatisfaction, it doesn’t mean you will get satisfaction. It also means that if there is dissatisfaction, simply enhancing satisfaction will not work. So, when it comes to employee engagement, to get true satisfaction, we would first need to remove dissatisfaction before we can boost satisfaction. Since everyone has different motivation, how then can we leverage diversity? Colin suggested that one way we can do so is to make the effort to get constant feedback and crafting strategies for different sets of target audience.

All in all
Through Colin’s session, I’ve learnt that physical, emotional, and cognitive factors need to be considered as we think about how we can keep up with change in the digital world. Some strategies to leverage diversity in a digital world include utilising cognitive collaboration by understanding everyone’s preferences, continuously seeking feedback, and improvising according to the target audience.

One thing Colin said that struck me was: “It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing things differently.” So as I start to embrace diversity in an ever-changing world, I would want to review the way I have been doing my daily tasks, and ask myself how I can tweak them to be more effective towards what I want to achieve. By taking these small steps of change, I have a good feeling about how I can better leverage diversity in this digital world.

This article was originally published on the SkillsFuture Festival Executive Series @ WeWork

About the Speaker

Colin Yeow_Emergenetics Asia PacificMr Colin Yeow
Deputy CEO, Master Trainer,
Emergenetics Asia Pacific


As Master Associate and Deputy CEO of Emergenetics Asia Pacific, Colin is involved in the overall strategic planning, business development and growth of the company in Asia-Pacific. Colin also conducts Certification (train-the-trainer) Workshops throughout Asia-Pacific, and oversees the further training, development and growth of our Associates.

Colin is also a Certified Action Learning Coach with the World Institute of Action Learning and an ATD Master Instructional Designer™. He is passionate about helping individuals and teams realise their potential, and in topics such as cognitive diversity, psychological safety and culture. He is currently pursuing a Graduate Diploma in Applied Positive Psychology, covering topics such as resilience, mindfulness psychotherapy, counselling and coaching.