Currently viewing the tag: "Diversity and Innovation"

Diversity and T shaped people

Working on innovation or carry out an innovative work requires experience of team members and of their leadership mainly when we intend to solve the problem where the combination of various disciplines is an unquestionable necessity, as it can be the case in the area of health.

What happens when we add people with different backgrounds and experiences to collaborate to solve a problem?

What happens when these people are also experts in a specific area?

To collaborate within an interdisciplinary environment, individuals need to gather forces in two dimensions:

A dimension that we can identify as a vertical axis, where each team member should be able to answer to questions specific of a discipline or area of work.

Another dimension, identified as a horizontal axis, and that translates to the ability to generate empathy and move through a common language. This is translated into opening, in curiosity, optimism, a tendency to learn by doing, and for experimentation

Those are “T” shaped people. Those are able to show what could be a thing in a desired future, and build a path for its accomplishment, that is, to solve a problem or find a solution.

Those are people with a set of tools and methods to understand the uncertainty, propose new options and quickly make the right choices. This means that they are equipped with, integration capacity, of projection and exploration, along with skills in critical thinking.

The problem solver must therefore begin to structure or make sense of the problem by identifying goals, conflicts, procedures, restrictions and information needed to solve the problem. In some cases, problem construction is a relatively straightforward and quick process, after which the problem solver can begin to collect information, and generate ideas. In other cases however, the problems are so complex that successful problem construction is paramount for solving the problem in an innovative way. Several studies have shown that when people spend more time formulating and constructing a problem, they generate better and more original solutions (e.g. Redmond, Mumford & Teach, 1993). An individual’s expertise, i.e. knowledge and experience, is a strong factor that decides the ability to both comprehend and generate innovative solutions to a novel and complex problems.”

T-shaped people uses a dialectical thinking and see the conflict as challenges and that way they manage the potential tensions that arise in the clashes from different points of view in interdisciplinary teams. This is made by recognizing the limitations of today, the uncertainties of the future and seeing the possibilities.

The different skills in a heterogeneous team extend the knowledge base because its members have greater opportunities for networking and have too diversity in exchange with external contacts of the organizations.

Despite the good results recorded in interdisciplinary teams, we must not forget that many times these good results are replaced by personality conflicts that are anchored in the diversity of backgrounds. When these teams consist of “T” shaped people the risk of conflict is beneficial because it comes to knowledge confrontation.

This is not a new problem. The management consultants long ago realized that only certain kinds of people thrived in the unpredictable world where clients might ask an almost infinite set of questions. McKinsey and Company came up with the idea of hiring what they termed ‘T-shaped’ people. People with deep analytical skills (the vertical stroke of the T) but also broad empathy toward those other skills and disciplines encountered in business (the horizontal stroke of the T). These highly adaptable, rapid learners turned out to be ideal management consultants.”

If we think in the role of a consultant or in the role of a leader, probably, empathy is the most important attribute that an effective consultant or leader must possess. The success of an organization that operates in multicultural environments depends on how the leaders or managers can integrate different cultures in their own styles.

Sometimes, it can be extremely difficult to understand another person. This is particularly true when we encounter cultural and/or religious differences or when language barriers will stand in front of us. But, this can also be true within the same country or city where there are natural communities in atypical settings.

We have to strengthen our horizontal dimension (empathy, communication) without forgetting, of course, the vertical (specialist).

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The influence of a few in many

The assessment of the potential of a person should not be done without defining in what context his potential will be put to the test. I can be introverted or extroverted, I can be an expert or a leader, but of course, in a society more open and culturally diverse, potential can be called into question at any time.

I have always believed that a good team overcomes “almost always” in effectiveness the ability of a very good individual isolated. Probably an individual alone, even being very talented is capable of making more and bigger faults that a good team, because alone their critical capacity is less.

The teams are fundamental in an organization but only work well if there is a good leadership and if its constitution is suitable for projects that they engage. A leadership, that we should not forget, is almost always replaced in organizations with regularity.

Even when a team or teams are composed of great figures, including some scientists, is always a good thing that the diversity and interdisciplinarity contaminate these teams.

When Dunbar reviewed the transcripts of the meeting, he found that the intellectual mix generated a distinct type of interaction in which the scientists were forced to rely on metaphors and analogies to express themselves. (That’s because, unlike the E. coli group, the second lab lacked a specialized language that everyone could understand.) These abstractions proved essential for problem-solving, as they encouraged the scientists to reconsider their assumptions. Having to explain the problem to someone else forced them to think, if only for a moment, like an intellectual on the margins, filled with self-skepticism.

This is why other people are so helpful: They shock us out of our cognitive box.

We as individuals are more or less intelligent. The intelligence defines our ability to abstract thinking, reasoning, learning, planning and decision making or problem solving or our ability to deal with diversity.

-And as a team?

It is well known that for teams to function and perform to the best of their ability, they must focus on structure, processes, leadership and the right organizational support and context…

What research now indicates, however, is that collective intelligence in teams, can lead to higher performance. We have evidence that speaking in turns by group members, the proportion of females on a team and especially social sensitivity are all elements that lead to higher team intelligence…

Research shows that people in power, especially men, speak more and interrupt more…

Women use, at least to some degree, different working and communication styles, which are often more social and communal…

Social sensitivity is the ability to decode nonverbal cues and read the emotions of others – something that people who are empathetic typically do well…

Although they may arise some problems of communication and understanding in groups where there is great diversity, be it gender, racial, ethnic, or cultural, the teams end up becoming “more social”, because they bring a great variety of perspective, experiences and attitudes to the set.

Work teams composed of competent members with diverse origin work more effectively than the workgroups that are homogeneous, or composed primarily by members with similar backgrounds. Hardly in homogeneous groups, has one of its elements outside his cognitive box.

When combined, the different members of the teams generate a unique dynamic team that is more comprehensive in various directions and thus better equipped to deal with complex problems and challenges.

At Microsoft we recognize that the U.S. and global diverse markets represent tremendous sources of value in the workplace and marketplace.  The growth of diverse populations worldwide and the potential of these segments make them important targets as prospective employees.  By the year 2050, 85% of the entrants into the U.S. workforce will be people of color and women.  Moreover, developing regions, such as China, Brazil, India, and Africa, make up an increasing share of the world population…

By increasing the diversity of our workforce we will create a team that effortlessly designs products with the needs of these growing customers in mind.”

The vast majority of organizations is passing or will pass soon by this confrontation with diversity and the best way to deal with it is learning and integrating the knowledge that the new values and environments transport.

We all need  to get out of our cognitive box and seek to understand the contents of the other’s boxes.


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Creativity and the Humanities

“How can organizations redesign their work environments to stimulate ideas, foster innovation and harness the creative potential of their workforce?”

This was the challenge launched at WEF and had as key points for discussion:

-Foosball tables and employees on Segways are evidence of creativity in an organization, but not conclusive proof of it, and not a sure-fire path to creativity. 

-Trust in the workplace is a necessary condition for creativity.

-Permission for creativity in the workplace comes from the top, and can be signaled in many ways (such as inclusiveness, diversity and openness).

– The workplace exists not only in physical space, but also in virtual space.

If we visit a few known companies (not to be confused with recognized) as having creative environments or leafing through some magazines we easily find pictures where they plays foosball, billiards or ping pong game. But it is true that this does not mean that there is an environment of creativity or innovation.

To innovate is essential that there should be an environment of trust and responsibility where the various activities unfold smoothly, conflicts or fear.

Trust and risk are closely linked with fear.

Often this image of “difference”, that contains fun and “freedom to” blocks on permission to innovate. Tim Brown focuses on this subject very well: “Permission to innovate.”

This means that the reconciliation of several key points for the development of creativity and innovation is not easy especially when we talk about diversity of personality, culture, knowledge structure or even gender.

How many times, the lack of permission is sustained in the absence of integration of difference?

Ralph-Ohr (@ralph_oh) shared an article via twitter, which deals with the theme,  “Fostering diversity in the workplace” and that helps us to reflect on the reconciliation of permission to innovate in an environment of diversity.

In this article we read: “Swann noted that diversity in fact promotes innovation, but only if this diversity has been embraced by the team.”

I think this diversity when it is embraced by the group is already a result of a series of events in the Organization and who have demonstrated by the development of a culture that embraces diversity, but where diversity is seen as a broad concept and not just a matter of knowledge disciplines or gender equality issues.

The traditional way to integrate a difference in organizations is sustainable?

Seek to develop a culture that embraces cultures is the desirable path, because this causes people to feel desired and understood thus helping to promote creativity.

“When you get an intersection of fields, disciplines or cultures, you can combine existing concepts in an extraordinary number of new ideas.” – Frans Johansson

Different people with different backgrounds and profiles leverage the ability to face challenges and embrace opportunities, because different motivations and ways to look and see are present.

That is why it is important to remember Dov Seidman:

“The prevailing approach to innovation, which countries and businesses need now more than ever, neglects a rich vein of untapped potential. We are focusing almost exclusively on the innovations themselves—the outcome of the creative process—while neglecting the human element in the equation. What would happen if rather than focusing on only one variable (the outcome) in the innovation equation, we addressed the human variable that we have always kept constant?”

Does the diversity have more disadvantages than advantages 

Is it so difficult that doesn’t deserve the bet?

Being different can be converge to drive?

What do you think?