Imagine two groups of problems solvers.
Group #1 is homogeneous. That is, everyone has similar personalities and areas of expertise.
Group #2 is diverse and comprises a blend of different styles and experiences.
Which group will perform better?
In times of crisis and on simpler tasks, Group #1 will always perform better. They “speak the same language” and therefore get things done quickly. Their solutions may not be as creative, but they will be more likely to coalesce.
But what about in less time-sensitive situations or more complex tasks?
According to research and my own experience, Group #2 will still – left to their own devices – underperform.
Although diverse groups may attempt a wider and more creative range of solutions, the differing perspectives can lead to harmful disagreement. For example, someone throws out what they think is a great idea, but it quickly gets shot down by someone who has had different experiences. In this instance, it might be creativity going in a head-to-head battle with practicality.
Diversity doesn’t work naturally. It requires one key ingredient: appreciation.
Our studies find that when diverse teams are given the tools to appreciate one another, they generate solutions with higher value and have a better chance of implementing them.
I’ve found that for diverse teams to work well, each person on the team needs to:
- recognize that opposites do not attract (they repel) and therefore it is natural to avoid or disagree with those who are different
- be aware of his or her limitations (each style has positive and negative implications)
- discover where he or she contributes and detracts in the innovation process (everyone can’t do everything well; certain part of the process are handled by some better than others)
- appreciate how others complement his or her limitations (each person provides different forms of value and “completes” you)
So yes, diversity can work. But it is not a natural act.
Anyone who says that opposites attract has not been paying attention to the bickering on Capitol Hill.
But opposites can collaborate effectively when everyone appreciates the contributions of those with different perspectives, styles, and experiences.
P.P.S. Personality Poker is designed to enable diverse teams to work effectively together. Learn more about this card-based system, book, and keynote speech.