Diverse Teams Outperform Homogeneous Teams

There are plenty of modern job descriptions, for forward-thinking companies, particularly in technical roles, that ask for specific qualifications:

"must have demonstrated capacity in scripting languages, or Android front-end development experience, et cetera."

Companies fill out teams based on functional skill sets that complement each other, to fit a broader strategy.

As an example, in my industry, venture capital firms often ask for either:

"experience at a startup, a technical degree (or demonstrated ability), or experience in financial services."

They believe that these skill sets will allow for the ideal candidate to solve the types of problems they are likely to encounter in the job.

I was thinking about that as I was reading this computational science paper published by researchers at University of Michigan.

Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers

It asks: “Can a functionally diverse group whose members have less ability outperform a group of people with high ability who may themselves be diverse?”

It attempts to combine ‘perspectives’ (the internal representations we make of problems) with ‘heuristics’ (the algorithms we use to locate solutions) to measure how well one type of group can solve a problem versus another. What they find is that the randomly selected group — with a basic set of abilities — consistently outperforms a uniform group with higher scores. That is —

diversity is an advantage to groups of problem solvers in and of itself.

If you have a homogenous organization, it is far more than simply PR and marketing to aim for as much diversity — gender, race, socioeconomic, sexual orientation — as possible. It’s simply good business. I believe it is JUST as reasonable, then, to put “ideal candidate is a woman of color” in a job description as it is to put “has a computer science or related degree from a 4-year college”. And by putting the former,

I guarantee white men will still apply. But more ‘women of color’ will, too. And the data is there that this is good for your organization.

Cover Image Credit: Fady Habib

Kanyi Maqubela

About Kanyi Maqubela

Venture partner at Collaborative Fund, a seed venture capital fund for creative entrepreneurs who want to change the world. It has backed such startup companies as Kickstarter, Reddit, and Lyft.

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