Introvert or extrovert - the importance of a diverse team

A huge 80 per cent of respondents to Virgin Pulse's State of the Industry survey claimed they plan to improve their corporate culture in the coming year. While it's important to have a strong culture (Google is a prime example of this - their pods and quirky decorations embody a fun and vibrant company that people enjoy working for), you should make sure you're hiring for diversity as well.

Why is diversity important?

Diversity is the key to creativity. A range of different people with broad backgrounds will come up with many more ideas than if you were to hire people with exactly the same skill sets and exactly the same viewpoints. This lack of diversity is known as "groupthink" and can stifle the ideas process. It may also lead to people agreeing to things just for fear of rocking the boat.

It's also important to have diversity when it comes to the problem solving process. For example, a diverse team, with many different areas of expertise or different ways of thinking, may come up with a range of solutions to an individual issue, meaning you'll have the chance to review as many potential scenarios as possible before making your final decision.

Having each team member write down their ideas separately and then converging to discuss will get quieter personalities to contribute.

How can you encourage diversity?

1) Divergence and Convergence

It's important that you encourage everyone to have their say. Often, the extroverts in the group will dominate team meetings at the cost of more introverted characters.

The Harvard Business Review recommends the "divergence and convergence" method to solve this problem. It involves having everyone go away and write down one idea or solution by themselves without consulting anyone else. Afterwards, all team members will bring their own idea to the table and everyone will discuss each. Then, the team will diverge again and write down which idea they think is best. There'll be another discussion afterwards until everyone is in agreement.

2) Re-frame debate

Another way to encourage diversity in your team is to re-frame the way people see debate. It's often natural to shy away from conflict, but if you make it clear that, as a manager, you encourage differing opinions and want to hear as many new ideas as possible, you'll encourage everyone in your team to start speaking up. It will no longer be seen as disagreement, but instead as discussions.

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