Brain power

How to make diverse teams thrive

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

While diversity is generally seen as a positive thing in the workplace, it can make coordination harder when there are more divergent views. Research1 from the Georgia Institute of Technology explores how diverse teams can manage to function effectively.

The researchers believe that the key is what’s known as a multicultural paradox mindset (MPM), which they define as “the degree to which one is accepting of and energized by intercultural tensions, both emphasizing cultural differences and finding common ground.” If such a mindset is present in a team then any differences are handled well and the team can be productive.

“A diverse team has the potential to be better at information elaboration, and, thus, creativity, than a non-diverse team,” they explain. “However, this potential needs to be unlocked. The presence of a member with high MPM is one way to achieve this within multicultural teams.”

Cultural intelligence

People with high MPM were able to embrace the differences within their team rather than attempting to ignore them. This allows all team members the chance to express themselves effectively, which helps the creative output of the team.

The researchers tested their theory on the benefits of having an MPM by selecting 217 participants and dividing them into 63 diverse teams. To ensure cultural diversity, they organized the teams into “clusters” instead of geographic locations, such as pairing a Spanish and Chinese person instead of a Spanish person and a French person.

The teams were presented with a scenario where an employee was allowed to work from home for an aging relative, causing problems when other employees requested the same arrangement. The teams were challenged to generate creative solutions for HR based on the given information.

“We found this task to be particularly well-suited for a study focusing on culturally diverse teams because of the deep cross-cultural differences in terms of views on work-life balance and remote work, how to care for family members, valuing the elderly, and overall HR policies and practices,” the researchers explain.

Successful teams

The researchers considered several variables, such as the individual definition of creativity, gender diversity, and overseas experience, that could impact their understanding and acceptance of different cultures.

They also accounted for team members from “tight” cultural backgrounds who may have difficulty accepting different values and perspectives, as opposed to those from “loose” cultures who tend to easily blend into groups and potentially have a multicultural paradox mindset.

“Leaders should definitely keep in mind who has a MPM when assembling a multicultural team. Without one (or more) members with a MPM, the risk of not unlocking the creative potential of the multicultural team is very high,” the authors conclude.

Article source: How To Make Diverse Teams Thrive.

Header image source: Christina @ on Unsplash.


  1. Mannucci, P. V., & Shalley, C. E. (2022). Embracing multicultural tensions: How team members’ multicultural paradox mindsets foster team information elaboration and creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 173, 104191.
Rate this post

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

Related Articles

Back to top button