Today I was reading a Scientific American article from around 2 years ago. It was actually shared by a Dutch friend of mine that I met while working in Thailand. The article was entitled How Diversity Makes Us Smarter and was basically about how being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working. Basically the article pulled on research from a variety of countries to show that:
- people with diverse expertise do better than a homogeneous group at solving complex problems - being exposed to diversity changes the way you think.
- interacting with people from different backgrounds leads to new information, opinions and perspectives, and forces people to prepare better, anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.
- diversity enhances creativity as it encourages the search for novel information and perspectives leading to better decision making and problem solving, and higher-quality scientific research.
- innovative companies perform better when women are part of the top leadership and when there is greater racial diversity - interestingly this is because when we hear dissent from someone who is different from us it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us.
- when members of a group notice they are different from one another, they change their expectations and anticipate that they will need to work harder both cognitively and socially. This hard work leads to better outcomes.
The bottom line is this: we need diversity—in teams, organizations and society as a whole—if we are to change, grow and innovate.