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Diverse Teams Perform Better Because They’re Less Comfortable

A regular trend in studies of successful businesses is that they feature more diversity in their workforce. Why this is the case has not been explored in depth until now. In an article for Harvard Business Review, David Rock, Heidi Grant Halvorson, and Jacqui Grey believe they have found a valid explanation: Diverse team members need to work harder to get along, and that hard work translates into better business results.

Not So Black and White

Many businesses are dragging their feet about increasing employee diversity because they think doing so will create too much new conflict between employees. But this and other biases harbored by businesses are unfounded. The first piece of evidence comes from a study in 2009, in which fraternity and sorority members played a murder mystery game. Groups of three people from the same house would deliberate over the identity of a killer, but five minutes into discussion, a fourth person (either from the same house or an outsider) would be added to the group. Teams who had to take on an “outsider” as the fourth person claimed to suffer from less effective team interactions, and yet these same teams doubled their chances (from 29 percent to 60 percent) of selecting the right murderer compared to the other, homogenous groups.

What this reveals is that we believe information or work is better when it is arrived at easily and organically. But this is not true. An ugly process is entirely capable of developing a stellar product. A “no pain, no gain” ethos actually seems to apply.

Separate research has indicated that the mere existence of racial diversity on a team leads people to believe more conflict might occur. This is important to remember when in a position to compose teams, namely, that one might be exaggerating the risk of putting people from different races and backgrounds together. That being said, the team does need to find ways to work together in order to succeed:

For example, research suggests that when people with different perspectives are brought together, people may seek to gloss over those differences in the interest of group harmony — when, in fact, differences should actually be taken seriously and highlighted. In a 2012 study teams of three were tasked with generating a creative business plan for a theater. On some teams, members were assigned distinct roles (Artistic, Event, and Finance Manager), thus increasing diversity of viewpoints. These teams came up with better ideas than homogeneous teams — but only if they’d been explicitly told to try to take the perspectives of their teammates. They had to face up to their differences in order to benefit from them.

So no, diversity does not instantly turn a business into Google. Some kindling is still needed. But this is good to know at any rate.

You can view the original article here:

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