The potential of diverse teams – and how to realise it

Diverse teams hold tremendous potential for the creativity, agility and ultimate success of organisations. However, inclusive recruitment practices alone cannot unleash this potential fully. 

Whether organisational diversity generates the kind of decision-making that primes organisations for superior performance is a matter of organisational culture, and therefore leadership. For diverse teams to flourish, leaders need to create the right organisational climate. At Amicus, we help leaders discover what they can do to harness the power of diversity within their organisations. 

Diversity promotes creativity, agility, and innovation
Why do individuals who spend time immersed in foreign cultures approach problems in particularly innovative ways? And why are people with more diverse experiences especially well-placed to transform lose-lose negotiations into win-wins?1

Diversity experiences allow us to sample ideas from across a wide set of concepts and to bring together previously disparate perspectives in unexpected and often innovative ways.2 People who engage deeply with diversity are also well-practiced at engaging with conflicting points of view. Such a frame of mind – agile and able to switch between different perspectives – encourages them to generate more, and more original, ideas.3

Diverse teams enable organisations to consider a wider range of perspectives and ideas throughout decision-making processes. Especially if leaders are skilled at facilitating constructive conflict within teams and able to engage different viewpoints with cognitive agility and flexibility, diverse teams are set to discover particularly innovative solutions to complex problems.

But it is not just the ability to consider problems from different vantage points that gives diverse teams an edge. When organisations challenge social norms and recruit people into roles in which their demographic tends to be under-represented (e.g. female CEOs), they can create a winning environment. By going against what is expected and embracing diversity, leaders create an organisational climate that encourages everyone to ‘break set’4 – to exchange rote-learned, stale, and stereotypical approaches for more original and innovative strategies.5

As organisations confront an uncertain economic and social climate, the mental agility and informational advantage that engaging with diversity promises is needed more than ever. 

Leaders need to create the right conditions for diverse teams to flourish.
How can the considerable potential of diverse teams be realised? Three factors stand out as core facilitators of diversity-driven success. Organisations benefit if leaders

  1. create the time and space required6 to resolve ambiguities and uncertainties that arise when their teams consider several (sometimes conflicting) perspectives on a problem.
  2. are able to facilitate meaningful team identities7 without neglecting the differences in background and experience that exist within diverse teams. 
  3. place a premium on strong relationships within diverse teams. Diversity can tempt people to re-segregate into homogenous silos,8 but a culture that encourages strong peer relationships9 and frequent communication, and thus coordination, within diverse teams10 helps translate diversity into superior performance. 

Creating conditions where organisations truly benefit from the hidden potential of diverse teams is a challenge around cognition (engaging with multiple different perspectives), communication (for good co-ordination) and culture (around team identity and relationships).

At Amicus, we are passionate about supporting leaders as they move from ‘good’ to ‘great’ when it comes to diversity. We believe it is essential to transition from finding seats at the table for a diverse group of people, to letting the diversity in the room transform how we approach new challenges and position our organisations during times of uncertainty.