WHY do diverse groups make better decisions? In working on a problem with people who look and think like you do, you tend to assume you know what others will say. So you may as well check your text messages! When someone different from the group arrives, you aren’t sure how they think or what they will say. So you pay attention. Diverse groups process information more carefully. A series of studies recently reviewed in The Scientific American confirm this.
My difference (gender) from the norm at the top of my corporation made me sensitive to diversity issues. In participating in diversity programs and training, I saw how much energy goes into trying to fit in. That lost energy costs creativity and quality. In an inclusive culture, where people feel heard and valued, engagement is higher. Inclusion and engagement drive productivity, innovation and results.
The adage is that two heads are better than one. Collaborating with my colleague to write a proposal reminded me of this. The research shows how and why diverse groups make better decisions, get better outcomes and create more innovation than homogeneous groups. Working with someone who thinks differently than I is harder than working alone or with someone who always agrees with me. But it is worth it!
One of the mindsets that create obstacles for women in the workplace is “unconscious images.” We have mental pictures of how leadership looks and what women want and can do. In our workshops, we bring this and other mindsets to conscious awareness. In the news, we see women leaders and experts, including Fortune 500 CEO’s. Lean-In.org and Getty Images have joined these efforts to broaden our images of women’s potential. They have published a gallery of 2,500 images of women and men that challenge old stereotypes.
I recently traveled to Turkey and saw a living (actually NOT living) example of how importance diversity is. At the formation of the country of Turkey, there was a “population exchange” between Greece and Turkey. Christians were sent to Greece; Muslims were sent to Turkey. Christians and Muslims had lived peacefully together for generations. Towns lost the diversity in their populations. And, as a result, towns died. Difference works! It does not work to eliminate difference. The town of Kayakoy is a memorial to the importance of difference.