It is baked into our DNA to be afraid of difference. Our reptilian brain says, “run!” or “fight!” when we encounter someone who doesn’t fit into our expected mold. But here’s the thing…we’re better than that.
We don’t have to listen to our animal instincts. We’re sophisticated beings who can do incredible things, and we’ve come a long way from the days when our “fight or flight” instinct governed our lives. It’s time (past time, in fact) we stop fearing differences and embrace them.
We live in a world filled with differences. It’s important to understand how those differences can be utilized to create stronger teams and better workplaces. Through differences, including but not limited to race, gender, ability, thought, and perspectives, teams and organizations can become stronger, more vibrant, and more successful.
Let’s choose to get curious, to inquire, and to use difference to our advantage. Here are 5 ways difference makes a difference.
1. Stronger Team Performance
By recognizing and embracing the different backgrounds of team members, teams can become more productive and effective. Study after study show that diverse teams are more effective and productive. And the difference in performance isn’t minimal. Diverse teams can outperform homogenous teams by 30 percent or more.
Why is this?
Team members learn to respect and even appreciate one another's unique perspectives and ideas, which can lead to positive changes in the team’s dynamics. Having a diverse team can also result in more open and effective communication, as well as increased creativity. With team members coming from different backgrounds, conversations and brainstorming sessions will be enriched with a variety of thoughts and ideas.
2. More Diverse Perspectives
Different perspectives are key to coming up with more innovative solutions to problems and creating innovative products. When different perspectives are combined, the resulting ideas and solutions can be incredibly powerful. With the help of diverse perspectives, teams can discover valuable new insights that they may not have seen on their own.
3. Increased Empathy
When team members come from different backgrounds and experiences, they are more likely to be empathetic and understanding of each other. Having an understanding of other people’s perspectives helps to create an environment of trust and respect, which can lead to better team dynamics and collaboration.
For more on empathy (and how to develop it), check out my past blog post on this topic.
4. Better Creativity
It’s difficult for a team to be groundbreakingly creative or innovative if everyone has similar backgrounds, experiences, or ways of thinking. However, when you introduce different perspectives, you open the door to new ideas and cutting-edge solutions. When team members have different backgrounds or ways of thinking, they bring something new to the table that can help spark ideas and drive innovation. For years, we have ignored so many voices and brushed aside so many different perspectives. Thinking about how diversity can propel creativity excites and energizes me!
5. Reaching a Wider Market
By understanding the different needs and perspectives of a variety of audiences, teams can create products and services that are tailored to those needs. It’s very possible that a diverse team will effortlessly come up with the “next big thing,” simply by tapping into their own experiences and understanding the gaps in the market that could be filled. Representation is important, and when people see themselves in a company or reflected in a company’s products, they’re more likely to feel an affinity with the company.
Differences can make teams and workplaces stronger. By recognizing and embracing the different perspectives, abilities, and experiences of team members, teams can become more productive, innovative, and successful. Differences open the door to new solutions, perspectives, and ideas, and can help teams reach wider audiences. By understanding and embracing differences, teams can build strong and successful workplaces.