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As it turns out, diversity is not only good for business, it's good for businesses.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review report, when the right kind of diverse talent can be assembled together in one team, creativity can flourish and that team's success is more likely.
Interestingly, the report's author explains that, in practice, actual diversity may matter less than diversity of experience and the abilities of those employees with diverse experiences to effectively communicate and participate with the team.
The HBR reports focuses on what it calls "cultural brokerage." It explains that cultural brokerage is "the act of facilitating interactions across parties from different cultural backgrounds." The underlying study found that cultural brokerage "is a key factor that allows multicultural teams to capitalize on the benefits of diversity while mitigating the pitfalls."
So what, or who, is a cultural broker? These are individuals who are either "insiders" to the dominant cultures in a multicultural team, or "outsiders" who bring the experience of two or more different groups outside the dominant cultures on a team. In the abstract this may sound confusing, but it's easier to see in real life terms.
For example, a team that is made up of American workers and Chinese workers relies on the insiders, who have both experience in American and Chinese cultures to help bridge the cultural gap on the team, while outsiders bring the experience of non-American and non-Chinese cultures to the table, such as Middle Eastern or Australian culture, which invariably enhances the team's reach and potential for success.
The HBR report warns that it is not enough for businesses to simply hire a diverse workforce and lock them all in a room until the team emerges successful with creative solutions (okay, they didn't say anything about locking the room). Rather, organizations need to ensure that they include cultural insiders and outsiders that can help to bridge gaps and ask the critical questions that may not be apparent to other team members for cultural reasons.
Unfortunately, these roles cannot be appointed or assigned, and involve a certain emotional vulnerability that employees may not be willing to take on unless the company's culture is just right.
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