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Expanding diversity in the workplace is often seen as a good way to inject fresh ideas into an otherwise stagnant environment, and incorporating new perspectives can help members tackle problems from a number of different angles. But few have looked into exactly why or how this is so.
While homogenous groups feel more confident in their performance and group interactions, it is the diverse groups that are more successful in completing their tasks.
New research finds that socially different group members do more than simply introduce new viewpoints or approaches. In the study, diverse groups outperformed more homogeneous groups, not because of an influx of new ideas, but because diversity triggered more careful information processing that is absent in homogeneous groups.
The mere presence of diversity in a group creates awkwardness, and the need to diffuse this tension leads to better group problem-solving.
Though people often feel more comfortable with others like themselves, homogeneity can hamper the exchange of different ideas and stifle the intellectual workout that stems from disagreements.
People would prefer to spend time with others who agree with them rather than disagree with them.
In diverse settings, people tend to view conversations as a potential source of conflict that can breed negative emotions.
This can blind people to diversity’s upsides: new ideas can emerge, individuals can learn from one another, and they may discover the solution to a problem in the process.
When a newcomer comes in, it interrupts the group. It changes the flow of the process and makes people stop and pay attention to the person.
Whether they stop and pay attention to the newcomer is up to the group. But if they do, the pain will probably be worth the gain.
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