- When we’re challenged, we’re uncomfortable. This arouses our brain, resulting in better performance
- Teams drawn from different disciplines and perspectives need to motivate and think through their positions – leading to better problem-solving skills
- Leaders who encourage team diversity achieve better outcomes.
Diverse teams have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. Research by the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that when we are forced to work in groups that are drawn from different disciplines and perspectives, areas in the brain light up that typically aren’t activated when we work in similar or non-diverse groups. In a nutshell, we use more of our brains when confronted by a room full of different opinions.
This is because diverse ideas challenge us. We’re forced to motivate and defend our positions with more clarity – or even readjust our thoughts based on new experiences and information.
Diverse teams and opinions tend to make everyone feel a little – or a lot – uncomfortable. The real secret to team performance, however, is that this is a good thing.
The big idea: Leave your comfort zone and achieve results
According to Rob Jardine, Head of Research and Solutions at the NeuroLeadership Institute South Africa, we perform better because working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable.
Leaders have a tendency to group similar individuals into teams, believing they’ll work better together. The opposite is true. Non-diverse teams have a tendency to think and act alike. When we work in teams of people who are similar to us, we aren’t challenged. We’re more comfortable, but we also aren’t pushed, and it’s when we’re pushed that the real magic happens.
What’s in it for you: We perform better when we’re uncomfortable
A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place.
The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. Here’s what the NeuroLeadership Institute found: The diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.
It feels easier to work in a team where we are at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less likely to be innovative, problem-solve or even be effective.
Jardine warns that we can’t assume that placing diverse teams together will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance, however. Diversity breeds discomfort, and if this isn’t managed, you can end up with a completely unproductive and even hostile team.
Make it Happen
5 Steps to achieve increased performance and results:
- Look for common ground amongst disparate team members. Jardine advises leaders to build team cohesion and create a sense of unity.
- Remind everyone of their shared purpose and goals. Place an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.
- Share credit widely when due. Ensure that you uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognise performance.
- Create clarity for teams. Don’t allow individuals to jump to conclusions about their membership within groups. Full transparency will allow all team members to use their mental capacity on the task at hand, instead of wondering why they’ve been included in the group in the first place.