Why Diverse Teams Create Better Work
A diverse workplace might ultimately create better results, a new study suggests.
The study, detailed by NPR, looks at the work of scientific researchers and finds that papers written by multicultural teams were cited in other research more often than those written by homogenous groups. In the world of research, citations are seen as a metric of quality.
Ethnic diversity wasn't the only harbinger of success. The same study also found that groups with members from geographic areas--perhaps three cities in the same country--also created better papers than those with members from the same place.
"It's a matter of looking at individual teams and making sure they're different perspectives, different points of view, different backgrounds," NPR's David Greene says.
The principle isn't an entirely new one.
The idea that different perspectives result in better work has been explored from a more macro-economic perspective, as research shows that diverse cities experience more economic growth. The idea is also at play in research showing that companies with females on their boards financially outperform those that don't.
However, building multicultural teams does put a premium on the manager.
For instance, it's worth exploring recent research from Harvard. That work, spearheaded by organizational behavior professor Roy Chua, finds that multicultural teams bring many benefits to an organization--provided the workplace is harmonious.
However, rifts between members of different cultures can cause even those team members not directly involved in the conflict to produce lesser work, Chua's study shows.
Chua suggests that managers of culturally diverse teams should encourage practices to keep potential friction low. Harvard's Working Knowledge website details what that process might look like:
(Chua) speculates that managers could decrease the effects of ambient cultural disharmony by encouraging employees to identify their own assumptions of other cultures--for example, by keeping a cultural journal in which they record their thoughts and observations. In the workplace, managers can create cultural "awareness moments," as HBS Associate Professor Tsedal Neely suggests, by setting up site visits between employees working in different environments, or by encouraging them to work side by side to observe how cultural differences can influence work habits.
Managing cultural friction in this way might not only help create a more harmonious workplace overall, but also ensure that you are reaping the creative benefits of multiculturalism at its best.