Contrary to conventional wisdom, research shows that surface-level demographic diversity doesn’t correlate to higher team productivity. But, if you dig deeper into these demographic differences, you’ll find a significant trend. When there is more cognitive diversity (or difference in perspective and information-processing styles) in a team, it correlates with better performance.
Researchers Alison Reynolds and David Lewis used a model to measure differences in how people approach change. In their experiment, teams that had more variety in thinking styles finished challenges more quickly than teams with less diversity. In other words, teams with high cognitive diversity typically outperformed.
Here are a couple tips to implement this diversity in the workplace:
1. Encourage different thinking styles.
Because employees sometimes feel pressured to fit in, it’s difficult for them to embrace different ways of thinking. As a manager, remind your team that “it’s okay to be themselves” and to think outside the box. That’s the best way for your team to find solutions to complex situations.
2. Be mindful of the behavior you model for your team.
Sometimes, managers send off conformist signals to their employees without even realizing it. How your team works together depends on your leadership, so make sure you’re giving off the right vibes to them.