The Classic Match-Up: Diverse- VS. Homogeneous Work Groups

It is a classic problem and until now it’s unresolved. The question what teams work better: diverse teams or homogeneous one’s. Oh man, all these dilemmas we face….

  • Creativity vs. performance.
  • Intra-group Conflict vs. Groupthink.
  • Fresh Ideas vs. Real Results
  • and so on…

But what if we wouldn’t have to face these dilemmas anymore? What if we could have everything? Sounds to good to be true? Yeah. Well, who said that all these strengths need to be combined in one team? Yesterday I already introduced you guys to Harold Jarche. And again he has an amazing suggestion what we can do to overcome these inherent challenges.

jarche model

It is through our social networks, not our work teams, that we come across the most revolutionary ideas. These social networks could be either part of the organization, or external parties. Where the ideas come from doesn’t matter, the point here is that we allow an open sharing of ideas with whoever can give us the right insights. Global teams often go out of hand, because members are not able to align their expectations, values, communication- and work-styles. But what is often much easier to to build informal relationships since there is no inherent pressure in such a relationship.

People from task-based countries, those that do not place much value on the building of relationships at work, but who’d rather get the work done straight away, will need to get used to this system first. Yet generally speaking, for multinational work-groups, this is absolutely necessary. ¬†Sooner or later they will encounter someone with a background from a relationship-based culture, and at that point he or she needs to know that starting with the job right away is simply not possible.

Anyways, once you got a new idea from your social network, it is time to think in a slightly more structured way and goal-oriented way. How does it relate to the organization’s problems and for what could it be used? These are questions that you ought to discuss with your communities of practice. Just in case you’re not familiar with the term:

Learning-theories.com defines communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern or passion for something and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”

This is where you filter what ideas are relevant and applicable for your organization. You start experimenting with them, maybe only within the group, and see whether or not they have potential. It is only when you have already seen that an idea has certain potential to be implemented in the larger organization, that  you share it with your work-group. In the group we then question the ideas and observations, adapt them to the needs of the group and ultimately work on implementing them.

All of this has clear advantages. First of all, it allows us to draw upon the diversity of ideas throughout our social network, but at the same time we are able to create more homogeneous, result-oriented, work groups that are responsible for the implementation. Second, it is a good defense against group think, because ideas need to pass through several layers (social network – community of practice – work group) before they are implemented.And third, it allows us to create an environment of social learning, where ideas are openly shared throughout functional borders.

the team management wheel

The Team Management Wheel by Margerison and McCann

With that said, the role of the expatriates in an organization shifts depending on the stage of the seek, sense, share model. In the first stages of the idea generation, expats need to be more of an explorer, always on the lookout for opportunities. But at the same time, they also need to control processes and identify areas where change might be needed. They then promote these ideas, or report what problems they have identified, to their communities of practice. After the idea has been discussed within the community, and the expat has delivered the results to the work-group, he or she is able to step back and let the team-leader who serves as a linker take over. At this point a group of local employees who share a similar working style will be able to implement the idea more effectively than a highly diverse team, so the expat will simply act as an adviser to the group.

 

 

Tim

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