Diversity is a hot topic in conversations about team building, and it's not just about race. Areas of diversity can include ethnicity, gender, age, social class, experience level and personality type. When you have a team of critical thinkers with different sensibilities and areas of expertise who are willing to collaborate and challenge each other in order to reach a common goal, you get results that are well-thought-out, effective and creative.
Having team members of different academic backgrounds, such as a mix analytical thinkers and abstract thinkers (e.g. psychiatrists and visual artists), can significantly broaden a team's ability to tackle obstacles. For example, if a team is composed of very similar members, they might come up with only two or three ways to address a problem, or they might be inclined to agree with each other without sufficient criticism. A diverse team has the opportunity to offer more potential solutions while challenging each others' viewpoints as a means of identifying the best possible solution for the organization.
Roles And Motivation
Having a diverse team allows for members to serve specific roles on the team in accordance with their individual strengths. Having a specific role on a team can help bolster a team member's sense of responsibility and purpose, which in turn can motivate that member to perform at a higher level of effort. Psychologist Albert Bandura suggests that a person's belief in her abilities affects her actions, including effort. When a team member feels she has been given a role because she is the best person for the job, she may be more motivated because of the confidence that has been placed in her.
One effect of diversity in problem-solving situations is that conflict arises more frequently. This conflict can be hazardous if it isn't managed properly and devolves into fighting. However, when team members remain focused on the team goal, and respectful of each other, these conflicts lead to thorough critiques of all proposed ideas. For example, if one member proposes a way to balance the company budget, and another thinks the proposal is flawed, the team can collaborate and investigate until they reach a consensus. Through that process of strict critical analysis a diverse team that challenges each other in order to get the best results possible will succeed.
According to a study conducted by Sujin K. Horwitz and Irwin B. Horwitz for the "Journal of Management," diversity has been a contributing factor to the creativity and innovation exhibited by teams. This is because diversity resists conformity. For example, if a team is composed of upper middle-class, white males, and one team member proposes they market their new automobile as being "classy, yet moderately priced," the rest of the group might concur and approve the plan. However, a team of men and women of varying age, ethnicity and socio-economic upbringings might collaborate and choose to market the car as "classy enough for a dinner party, but sporty enough for an off-road trek...and it's also affordable.