There is much agreement in the research, and certainly from our experience with clients, that diverse teams are what deliver the diversity dividend. The question is what creates teams that are diverse and highly motivated and performing?
WHAT MAKES A TEAM HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL?
In 2012-13 Google ran Project Aristotle. They looked at 180 teams from all over the company to see whether they could discover whether there were characteristics that were common to the ones that performed the best.
What they started to discover was that team norms — how teams agree to behave and function — was the really significant determinant. And they eventually concluded that what distinguished the ‘‘good’’ teams from the dysfunctional groups was how teammates treated one another.
The right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright. This is a good summary of the project in the New York Times:
This chimes with a great piece of research done by Professor Anita Williams Woolley (Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University) and her team, in which they asked whether a team can be said to have a single intelligence and ability and, if so, what makes it up?
“Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups” published in Science (29 October 2010 VOL 330)
Both investigations concluded that the crucial norms are:
an equal sharing of contributions to the work and discussions – no-one dominates;
the sensitivity of the groups towards one another – that they get to know and understand each other;
and the presence of women (and, by extension, others who bring difference).
HOW DO YOU MANAGE THESE DIVERSE TEAMS AND THEIR NEW NORMS?
Once you’ve got your diverse team and its ‘new norms’, though, isn’t it more difficult to manage that level of difference? Well possibly….but that’s exactly how you get the results
This article, from Harvard Business Review, describes research that concludes that it’s precisely the hardeness of managing diversity that gets you the higher performance. Capitalising on diversity means highlighting — not hiding from — differences.
AND MORE THAN THAT, IT TURNS OUT WE OVERESTIMATE THE DIFFICULTY OF DIVERSITY
The fascinating conclusions from this 2015 paper published in Organization Science https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-biases-that-punish-racially-diverse-teams
suggest that we hugely overestimate the amount of conflict that actually exists in diverse teams. We think there’s less conflict in homogeneous teams. But actually there isn’t! As my Dad used to say about the cold: “you’re not cold, you just think you are”!
We just think there’s more conflict.
AND FINALLY, A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW TO MANAGE AND MOTIVATE
And finally, in this lovely article (he just sounds like someone you’d really like to work for) “How to Build a Motivated Research Group” Professor Uri Alon, a Systems Biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, describes how he applied the three conditions to inspire what he calls “self-determined behaviour”, which is the great motivator:
and social connected- ness
We hope you found these pieces and their conclusions interesting and helpful in your work.
Simon & Roy
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