Can Differences Make Us Better?

We have known since 1956 that diverse teams function at a higher level than homogenous teams. That year the Administrative Science Quarterly reported that medical scientists performed better when work relationships were formed across different values, experiences and disciplines.

On the surface this claim seems counter-intuitive. How could a group of people who do not look like other, talk like each other or think like each other agree on anything?

Heidi Grant and David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute, an organization that uses brain science to drive leadership development, claim there are 3 ways that dissimilar teams outperform teams of the same stripe.

They Focus More on the Facts
Diverse teams tend to closely scrutinize each other which forces team members to remain objective. This constant analysis sharpens the focus of the team which keeps everyone on their toes.

Most importantly, diverse teams help each other get in touch with their own biases, beliefs and behaviors that may cause them to miss important information. Differences serve as an antidote to self-serving tendencies. This is why defense lawyers fight for diverse juries with the expectation that a myriad of difference perspectives in the jury box will ensure a fairer verdict.

They Process Facts More Carefully
While diverse teams are better than likeminded teams, their success does not come without a cost. Despite their great performance record, diverse teams do not perceive themselves as more effective and are less confident than homogenous teams.

This is beauty of diversity. You may not feel like embracing differences is a good thing but in the long run it is.

Diverse teams process information more carefully because they are listening to outside perspectives. Without knowing it, they are making short term investments in outcomes with huge dividends at the end of the day.

They Are More Innovative
Diverse teams pressure each other to reinvent themselves. They realize that what got them here will not get them there. They fight against conformity by allowing team members to be themselves, play to their strengths, question the status quo, create challenging experiences and foster broader perspectives.

While birds of a feather may flock together birds of different feathers produce better results. In these unsettling days of public servants who are inundated with messages of what have you done for me lately, the flexing of your diversity muscles may be just the thing that saves your job and keeps you on the road to a brighter tomorrow.

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