In today’s world, some may say we’re more polarized than ever finding camps of commonalities and comfort within which to exist as individuals and communities. I would like to challenge that notion as there are wonderful pockets of inclusive, integrated and socially diverse communities particularly found in two places in the United States: our public schools and our most successful companies. In the article How Diversity Makes Us Smart, Columbia Business School professor Katherine W. Phillips confirms that the scientific research on the importance of this level of social diversity is clearly evident. She readily admits that “diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious – you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers and quality-control experts.” In this article she makes the case for social diversity by answering the question, “What good comes from diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation?” In short, Phillips shares research proving that “being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.” What better place than a public school is there to enjoy this level of social diversity and nurture our creativity and effort? In the article, Phillips details three key aspects of social diversity:
- Socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
- A group of people with diverse individual expertise is more effective than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems.
- This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.
That said, in explicitly building our teams to maximize this social diversity, Juliet Bourke, leader of the Australian Diversity and Inclusion practice, explains that we need to avoid the “Noah’s Ark” response to building diverse teams. Let’s not put our faith in luck simply shuffling people into our teams two by two! Bourke shares her experience, research and lessons in the area of diversity and inclusion to answer the key question within her book title, Which two heads are better than one? How diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions. Note the three lessons below and have a look at her 13-minute talk that further highlights these lessons.
- Diverse groups make better decisions.
- There are six mindsets and behaviors exhibited by inclusive leaders (commitment, courage, cognizance, curiosity, cultural intelligence and collaboration).
- Vulnerability begets vulnerability.
Here’s to each of us getting smarter within our socially diverse settings and building upon them to maximize the social diversity!