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Putting diversity to work: 3 lessons

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

Studies of diversity have exploded in the decades since it was recognized that most new entrants to the 21st century workforce would be women and minorities.

University of Michigan researcher Scott Page shows how diversity helps organizations. His models show that when making predictions, diversity is as important as ability, and when solving problems, diversity often trumps ability.

Here are three of his lessons on putting diversity to work:

  1. Look outside your team for people and ideas, and consult dissenters, which will help avoid groupthink.
  2. Pay attention to who the outsiders are and how they’re different. Some differences mean more than others. For example, it’s easy to fixate on divergent points of view between white men and black women. However, Page notes a lack of age diversity in the military.
  3. Do your best not to stereotype people. Stereotypes may become self-fulfilling and discourage employees, limiting their opportunities.

Common pitfalls include mentoring and “dress for success” programs that may en­­courage outsiders to act like the dominant group instead of thinking for themselves.

— Adapted from “Viewing Diversity Through Different Lenses: Avoiding a Few Blind Spots,” Myrtle Bell and Daphne Berry, Academy of Management Perspectives.

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