Full disclosure, I’m really quite interested in unconscious bias, understanding the impacts of diversity, and also on being as impactful as I possibly can. I would like to be aware of the context, and to do a good job within it. I have opinions on these matters.
With that said: I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review about Why Diverse Teams are Smarter. In that article, the authors link to a remarkable study. In that study, teams of people are asked to solve a puzzle. Those teams start out with three people who are all from the same fraternity or sorority. They are joined midway through the puzzle by an additional person. That person is either a member of exactly the same greek organization (“in group”) or a gender matched member of a different organization (“out group”).
Note that we’re not talking about something truly uncomfortable and fraught – like ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, or … well … the whole laundry list. We’re talking about testing whether being in the same fraternity vs. the neighboring house full of gender matched privileged people makes a difference in performance on a made up test in a controlled environment.
From the abstract: Groups with out-group newcomers (i.e., diverse groups) reported less confidence in their performance and perceived their interactions as less effective, yet they performed better than groups with in-group newcomers (i.e., homogeneous groups). Moreover, performance gains were not due to newcomers bringing new ideas to the group discussion.
Less confidence in their performance, perceived themselves as less effective, performed better, no new ideas.
Rest with that for a moment.
Felt worse, did better.
So then I thought about my role as a consultant. I’m the out group. I drop in and try to help the team solve the same puzzle they’ve had for years. Realistically, in most cases, I bring very little truly new information.
Sometimes people say that I had a major impact. That I transformed things. That it’s cool to be able to rent a unicorn.
They say that it was uncomfortable – uncertain, but totally worth it in the end.
I rest with that.
I think that Kendric Lamar said it best: