The Importance of Team Diversity

DiversityA diverse workforce can benefit an organization in many ways. From promoting healthy working relationships and fostering creativity to helping the organization connect with a wider audience, the pluses are readily observable. But what about diversity among team members? Without it, your teams may lack effectiveness.

“Diversity” means differences across many dimensions, such as culture, sex, physical abilities, age, race, sexual orientation, political beliefs, religious practices, preferences, personalities, generations, values, where a person lives, how they are raised, what educational opportunities are available, experiences, and socio-economic status. Advocates for diversity acknowledge that while all people are unique with their own frames of reference molded by both internal and external factors, they often share many internal and external traits. For example, people raised in the Midwestern United States have a shared culture and beliefs that may differ widely from people raised in Australia or the Far East.

Diversity among team members breaks “groupthink,” which Webster’s defines as “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.” Groupthink occurs when a group of people desires agreement and conformity, which leads them to minimize conflict and reach decisions without considering other viewpoints. It is not effective to have a team that is the same, because it will fail to challenge or question ideas. A team with differing team members fosters creativity and improves the final outcome. In the 1980s, IBM had an ad that said, “Great minds think alike.” Ultimately, IBM changed the ad to, “Great minds think unalike.” The point is clear: a diversity of knowledge, talents, and experience helps companies grow.

Creating diversity is one of the ways you can help create effective teams. Diverse teams will challenge old ideas and create new ones. Creating a diverse team is only one of the ways to create an effective team. To learn what it takes for a team to become high performing, register for MSEC’s 2015 Employment Law Update conference. See you there!