Embracing cultural diversity is one of Brain’s key values. As our team grows and the number of nationalities we interact with on a daily basis increases we have noticed one very interesting development — cultural diversity has made the work we do smarter! So we decided to do a little digging to find out if what we suspected was actually true. Did the mix of social knowledge and learning among our growing team truly change the way the team solves problems?
What does the research say?
While it’s a common understanding that having ‘locals’ working on local clients gives you home ground advantage, recently there has been a growing field of study into how the opposite — cultural diversity — affects the workplace and currently it seems the practice is getting a big thumbs up.
And here’s why…
Facts are important
According to David Rock and Heidi Grant, in their article Why diverse teams are smarter ‘People from diverse backgrounds might actually alter the behaviour of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking.’
It appears diverse teams are more likely to consistently remain objective while constantly reviewing the facts to see if the way thoughts have shifted, still stays true to a global resolution of the problem at hand. This means that greater scrutiny of each team member’s actions is encouraged, ‘keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant’. Installing a diverse team is also helpful in allowing all team members become aware of their own personal biases — which frequently limit objectivity and can blind them to key information.
Facts are also processed more carefully
Greater diversity has been known to change the way a team assimilates information, which is needed to make the best possible decision to ensure the best outcome. Studies suggest that diverse teams outperform their homogenous counterparts in decision making specifically because information interrogation is more thorough. Sure, taking a number of perspectives into account takes longer but the payoff can be significant.
They drive innovation
We’ve all heard the 21st century catchphrases like ‘Innovate or die’, ‘Innovation is life’, ‘Growth is born from Innovation’ (notice the trend?). It’s something every good business keeps top of mind. If you don’t continually strive towards new ways to do what you do now, you’ll be left behind.
It seems now more than ever the best way to boost your businesses ability to change is by having culturally and gender diverse teams. In a study published in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, the authors’ analyzed levels of gender diversity in research and development teams from 4,277 companies in Spain. The study found that those companies with more women in their employ were most likely to ‘introduce radical new innovations into the market’.
Another study based on the London Annual Business Survey, revealed that businesses run by culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to introduce new products than homogenous teams. Added to this It’s well known that managers and leaders often hire those that are similar to them — but this can threaten innovation because teams are likely to conform to one school of thought. Often these are unconscious decisions so it is key for the business to actively promote a culturally diverse agenda.
Unlocking your team’s intellectual potential
These are just three examples that show the positive effect cultural diversity can have on your business and all available information does suggest that different genders, races and nationalities working on the same project increase the odds of a more innovative and smart outcome. So it seems our hunch was indeed correct — cultural diversity has helped us do smarter work.
We leave you with a cautionary word — differences can cause strife so when introducing cultural diversity into your team make certain you have created a friendly environment for differing opinions. Something that is frequently overlooked but is essential for success.