From the Harvard Business Review:
Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse
Alison Reynolds David Lewis
MARCH 30, 2017
… we have run a strategic execution exercise with executive groups focused on managing new, uncertain, and complex situations. The exercise requires the group to formulate and execute a strategy to achieve a specified outcome, against the clock.
Received wisdom is that the more diverse the teams in terms of age, ethnicity, and gender, the more creative and productive they are likely to be. But having run the execution exercise around the world more than 100 times over the last 12 years, we have found no correlation between this type of diversity and performance. With an average group size of 16, comprising senior executives, MBA students, general managers, scientists, teachers, and teenagers, our observations have been consistent. Some groups have fared exceptionally well and others incredibly badly, irrespective of diversity in gender, ethnicity, and age.
Since there is so much focus on the importance of diversity in problem solving, we were intrigued by these results. If not diversity, what accounted for such variability in performance? We wanted to understand what led some groups to succeed and others to crash and burn. This led us to consider differences that go beyond gender, ethnicity, or age. We began to look more closely at cognitive diversity.
Their conclusion is that having different kinds of thinkers on a team is helpful, but the important kinds of cognitive diversity don’t correlate much with the usual identity politics categories.