A recent short paper in McKinsey Quarterly caught my eye.ï¿½ It puts some financial data to something for which evidence has been growing over many years: the value of diversity.
The old saying ï¿½thereï¿½s no ï¿½Iï¿½ in teamï¿½ is both wise and foolish at the same time
It is wise in that it highlights the dangers of personal agendas in a team: that they can de-rail interpersonal relationships, group cohesion and task focus.
But it is foolish if interpreted as a rejection of individuality.ï¿½ All that we bring to a team is who we are.ï¿½ So, when we each bring our distinct individuality, together we bring more that if we were to just bring our similarities.ï¿½ A diverse team is a strong team.
The Strengths of a Diverse Team
Awareness of difference heightens awareness of ourselves
When we learn more about our colleagues ï¿½ and respect them for what they can offer ï¿½ we can also gain insights into ourselves, by comparison with their experiences, knowledge and personal styles.
More about Self-mastery
Different People see things differently
How we perceive the world is influenced at least as strongly by our culture, experiences and background as it is by any ï¿½objectiveï¿½ reality.ï¿½ Exposure to how other people perceive the world gives you more choices about how to interpret things ï¿½ and therefore, more options for control over events.
More on Perception
Exposure to Difference helps us to Learn
We evolve as human beings and as professionals when we expose ourselves to the new ideas, new points of view and new ways of thinking about situations that diverse colleagues offer us.
More on Evolution
More Knowledge, More Wisdom, More Intuition, More Skills: Better Solutions
Put together a diverse group and you increase every aspect of what Aristotle described as the ï¿½Intellectual Virtuesï¿½.ï¿½ Add to this the benefit of an ï¿½outsider perspectiveï¿½ to question and challenge the ï¿½easy answersï¿½ and we find that diverse teams are adept at finding more effective, more creative and more robust solutions to problems, more often than not.
More on Conduct
Balancing right and wrong, do or donï¿½t, this or that
Bad decisions are made by coherent groups of like minded individuals when they focus on agreement and supress the discomforts of robust challenge.ï¿½ Irving Janis described this effect as ï¿½Group Thinkï¿½.ï¿½ Individuals in a diverse group do not feel the coherence as much, so are less tempted by the urge to maintain harmony at the expense of getting the right answer.
More on Judgement
Merit: not Matching
Is it plausible that around 50% of the worldï¿½s population represents less than 20% of the worldï¿½s greatest talent?ï¿½ Yet that is the gender balance of many top teams.ï¿½ Is it credible that a few superficial features of facial shapes and skin pigmentation can affect mental agility, character or drive and commitment?ï¿½ No.
More on Fairness
To Persuade more People, use more Arguments
My authority stems from everything I am.ï¿½ If I join my authority to ours, it will be greater, especially if everything you are is different to everything I am.
More on Authority
Correlation or causation?
The authors (Thomas Barta, Markus Kleiner, and Tilo Neumann) rightly acknowledge that correlation does not imply causation.ï¿½ The higher Returns on Equity (RoE) and higher Earnings before Interest and Taxation (EBIT) of the companies in the top quartile of diversity may not be caused by their diversity.ï¿½ It may be a coincidence or both may be linked to another factor.ï¿½ Or, indeed, the higher performance may free those companies up to focus on encouraging diversity.
Rightly, the authors are seeking more evidence to test their hypothesis.ï¿½ But for now, the data adds weight to the argument for diversity.ï¿½ I will certainly continue to value diversity as a source of wisdom ï¿½ unless evidence falsifies that assessment.