Tag Archives: Diversity

Why It’s Important to Have Diversity (in age!) in Your Work Teams

If you had to guess, would you say that younger people or older people are better at learning abstract causal principles?

When first thinking about this question, I would have thought that older people would be better at this given that they have more experience and that they might have been in analogous situations. However, the research seems to indicate that younger folks are better at things like this. Here’s a passage from the researchers that specifically address my thought that experience would be helpful:

The very fact that older learners know more may make it more difficult for them to learn something new. Once a learner has inferred a general principle (e.g., that people act because of their traits, or that individual objects, rather than combinations of objects or relations between them, have causal powers), that principle may constrain his or her interpretation of new data. Causal relationships that conflict with that principle may then be more difficult to learn.

Certainly this research is important, but the thing I want to highlight here is work teams. Specifically, this study points to the importance of having diverse w0rk teams. It’s important to remember that diversity doesn’t just mean people of different genders and different races, but people of different ages, too. If we mix in folks with different “levels of experience,” we might have a better chance of coming up with a solution to the issue than if we just used folks who were all of the same level experience.

Further to that, I was thinking about how this research comes into play when we think of top management teams or corporate boards. Recall the post I wrote recently that discussed the importance of diversity at the board-level. I don’t remember there being anything related to age in that article, but I also suspect that conducting research on age as it relates to boards or top management teams might be difficult. Usually, we find folks who’ve reached a certain level of experience before they’re considered for work on a corporate board or considered for a promotion to the top management team. Maybe we need to start thinking about considering some younger folks for positions in these roles.

ResearchBlogging.orgGopnik, A., Griffiths, T., & Lucas, C. (2015). When Younger Learners Can Be Better (or at Least More Open-Minded) Than Older Ones Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24 (2), 87-92 DOI: 10.1177/0963721414556653

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Board Diversity Paramount for Achieving Corporate Benefits

Earlier this year, there was some interesting research published about board diversity, as it relates to achieving corporate benefits. Specifically:

Board diversity improves governance and product development especially in firms led by White men CEOs. There are at least two important implications of these findings. First, we have no evidence that firms with White CEOs and diverse boards experience greater conflict than other firms due to distrust, lack of social similarity, or resultant communication barriers. Indeed, it appears that the presence of ethnic diversity on the governing body only advances strong corporate governance.

I should clarify that the researchers acknowledged the limitations of their findings because they limited their sample to Fortune 500 companies. The second implication:

Diverse leaders may bring perspectives, priorities, and ideas to organizations that significantly affect organizational trajectories. In particular, minority leaders at the board level affect the likelihood that a firm will pursue strong governance and effective product development. This strongly supports the business case for diversity. Our findings also suggest that relative numbers and influence on the board in conjunction with the CEO matter for realizing the benefits of diversity. Both the percentage of minorities on the board and the presence of influential minorities significantly impact governance and product innovation when traditional leaders serve as CEOs.

This is certainly not the first study published about the importance of board diversity, but I find this one particularly interesting because it puts things in the context of corporate benefits, which is something that I would think might be more likely to motivate action.

The researchers also draw attention to a specific avenue for further research: top management teams. I would suspect that we might find a similar effect, with regard to diversity, when studying the composition of top management teams. The importance being that different perspectives are represented and diversity is one of the ways to do that. It could be, however, that this same effect doesn’t hold when analyzing the level of top management teams, which would then increase the importance of having diversity within board composition.

ResearchBlogging.orgCook, A., & Glass, C. (2014). Do minority leaders affect corporate practice? Analyzing the effect of leadership composition on governance and product development Strategic Organization, 13 (2), 117-140 DOI: 10.1177/1476127014564109

That Which Is You — Is Me

Last month, there was a big hullabaloo when Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera. A great majority of that outrage (at least from what I could tell) stemmed from the fact that Al Jazeera is an Arabic news network (or to that’s their perception). Note: the criticism of selling to an oil-backed company was far more substantiated. While that might have been how the network started, they report on far more than just Arabic news. There’s obviously more going on here than ethnocentrism and people who don’t want news about the Arabic world, though.

The obvious answer would be that some Americans are still fearful of people who look different from them. Notably, Americans are fearful of the people who look the same as those people who were part of the tragic events of 9/11. Is this reasonable? Is this fair? Is it fair to loop in 23% of the world’s population (that’s almost 2 billion, by the way) because of 19 people? Now, to give people some credit — it’s not all their doing.

To be more specific, people are subjected to these “us-them” perceptions if/when they watch the news. When was the last time you saw a TV program where a Muslim person was the protagonist — where a Muslim person was the hero and not a terrorist. This is unacceptable.

Did you know that there have been more terrorist-related deaths as a result of a white person committing the act of terrorism?

There’s one more thing I want to say on this matter and I hope you give me some leeway on it. As I watch the unfounded vitriol directed at Muslims and people with brown skin, I can’t help but think of Black people and the civil rights movement. Of course, I wasn’t alive during the events that led to the movement, but from what I’ve heard/read about it, it seems to me that some Americans treat brown-skinned people the same way that they treated black people back then. Don’t get me wrong — I know that there were plenty of unspeakable acts committed against black people back then (that aren’t necessarily happening to brown people today).

I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw the connection between what happened back then and what’s happening today. It’s just disappointing to me that this kind of stuff still happens. When will we — as a species — see: ‘that which is you — is me.’