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Another link to a KBYU-FM Thinking Aloud discussion that is interesting and worth a listen.

You may have heard of this study that came out from research by a professor from the Marriott School of Management at BYU (together with another professor from Stanford University). In short, it says that diversity in teams is a good thing. For the purposes of this post diversity refers to variety of personalities, backgrounds, opinions, and/or approaches to tasks.

Though we may feel more comfortable when we work with individuals that share our background and/or point of views, those teams are not the ones that are likely to be the most productive. Having an “outsider” on a team forces everyone to be a little sharper, to question more, and in a selfish way strive to analyze decisions and actions in a more logical and less emotional way. Here is a bit of Adam Smith (invisible hand) at work in team effectiveness.

Groupthink is a terrible thing. Group-what? There are many examples in history of groupthink, my favorite (because it is so obvious how it happened, yet the consequences are not nearly as tragic as some military and political examples) is the Abilene Paradox. Human nature is to be accepted and validated. There is a reason we praise the thoughts and actions of the various types of pioneers (whether they be a covered-wagon type, or a new-thinker type). Those willing to branch out, leave comfortable dwellings (be they physical or scholastic), and do something different often succeed in bringing about new conditions, new realities.

The principles discussed in the study are applicable to our workplaces, churches, community groups, and even friendships and families. The study doesn’t say that there is inherently anything wrong with SOP (standard operating procedure) per se, but team diversity helps us to think more critically and evaluate decisions we make to ensure that we are in fact doing what is best.

One might wonder if you can have too much diversity, if there is a point where it becomes a hindrance due to lack of ability to find common ground and such, but that will have to be the subject of another study.