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Importance & Impact of Diversity in Work Teams

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
It may seem obvious that diversity is important in work teams, but this isn't always the case. Learn about the two sides to this coin on the impact of diversity on teamwork.

Work Team Diversity

This lesson is going to be a tale of two tales. Diversity, by definition, deals with varied and different circumstances or people. And diversity's impact on work teams is just as varied and different, even within the same topic.

You're going to get a look at how that is the case as we explore numerous aspects of the importance and impact of diversity on work teams.

Diversity & Creativity

Let's being by taking a look at the impact and importance of diversity on creativity. Research indicates that, overall, diversity can increase a team's creative capabilities. But things aren't that simple.

First, too much diversity can actually hinder the implementation of newly created ideas as team members struggle to find cohesion among so much variability between team member backgrounds and perspectives.

Second, it appears that not all forms of diversity are created equal. Demographic diversity, in the form of gender, age, ethnicity, and so on, doesn't appear to have as much of a consistent and beneficial impact on creativity as deep-level diversity, differences in cognition, personality, skills, values, and so on.

Even within each type of diversity, the science is ambiguous as to the true impact diversity has on team creativity. Some studies show that, for example, diversity in gender within a team has no meaningful impact on creativity while other studies have found positive correlations between gender diversity and creativity.

The takeaway is simple: overall, some types of diversity do increase creativity within a team, but exactly which forms of diversity improve creativity and when that diversity should be implemented remains unclear.

Diversity & Work Performance

So what about something more tangible and measurable, like work performance? Does diversity impact work performance in any way? It sure does. Again, it's a tale of two tales. There are good ways and bad ways in which this occurs.

Let's start with an example of the benefits of diversity and work performance. On the one hand, we can envision a situation where a team is trying to enter a new, foreign market. A homogenously American work team would likely fare much worse than a heterogeneous work team comprised of Americans and those of the foreign nation. All sorts of important cultural and linguistic elements can ease the team's transition into the new market and improve their performance within that market.

But there is a flipside. For instance, let's pick on linguistic diversity and team performance. Let's say that the same team is working within the confines of the American market only. Yet the team is composed of a highly diverse set of linguistically varied individuals, few of whom speak English fluently.

This can actually hinder performance as individuals struggle to understand one another, communication stalls or fails, and frustration sets in.

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