gravitate toward the similar. It's a basic fact of human psychology. Throw some oddballs into the mix, and interactions become less predictable. People get uncomfortable--even angry. Sure, that unease is what helps spur innovation. But changing a company's culture is a lengthy process. Here's how to get started.

your current work force

diversity often means bringing in new blood--which presumes that current staffers have little to offer. In fact, most organizations are made up of groups of people who rarely interact. Finding ways to bring these groups together makes it easier for everyone to get used to hearing new perspectives. And that, in turn, will smooth the path for any new talent you decide to bring on.

for conflict

's not a matter of if, but when. Reduce the sting before it starts by assuring staffers that conflict is natural--and that fair fights won't be career-killers. Indeed, the real work begins when flare-ups die down. Managers must assure everyone that their insights are valued--even if their ideas didn't come out on top.

the middle

shows that teams work best when they're either extremely diverse or hardly diverse at all. Problems, such as cliques, occur in the middle. Ease your transition to a more diverse work force by making sure old and new employees work together. And invest your iconoclasts with real authority--that will send the message that you're serious about changing the culture.