Monday, June 16, 2008

Arguments for Organizational Diversity

Bringing new members into the organization, even if they're less experienced and less capable, actually makes the group smarter simply because what little the new members do know is not redundant with what everybody else knows. As [legendary organizational theorist James G.] March wrote, "The effect does not come from the superior knowledge of the average new recruit. Recruits are, on average, less knowledgeable than the individuals they replace. The gains come from their diversity."
. . .
Ultimately, diversity contributes not just by adding different perspectives to the group but also by making it easier for individuals to say what they really think. [...] Independence of opinion is both a crucial ingredient in collectively wise decisions and one of the hardest things to keep intact. Because diversity helps preserve that independence, it's hard to have a collectively wise group without it.
. . .
To me, that's one of the (and maybe the) great virtues of collective decision making: it doesn't matter when an individual makes a mistake. As long as the group is diverse and independent enough, the errors people make effectively cancel themselves out, leaving you with the knowledge the group has. Now I realize that to some people (who have old me so) this sounds either vaguely mystical or else overly simplified. But it just happens to be the way the world works.
From James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds.

1 comment:

Kathryn Jastrzembski said...

Jeff, I have noted another advantage to new, relatively inexperienced team members. They act as representatives of people outside the group that the team may be trying to influence, sell to, etc. In that way they help the team to see outside their own frame and create more accessible products, lessons, whatever. The newcomers are an in-house focus group which can enhance team performance.