Diversity and creativity: the link is not as simple as we think

A good summary of a study that is more nuanced than most in the link between diversity and creativity.

Of particular note is how the benefits of diversity are greatest in innovation, less so in implementation. And that personality diversity is likely more important than demographic diversity.

Some good leadership pointers in how to manage diverse work forces:

It has become customary to assume that diversity increases creativity. But Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and a faculty member at Columbia University, says the link is not as simple as we think.

Yes, teams with a diverse composition generate a wider range of original and useful ideas. But experimental studies suggest those benefits disappear when the team turns its attention to implementation, deciding which ideas to select and act upon, presumably because diversity hinders consensus.

He writes in Harvard Business Review that an analysis of 108 studies and more than 10,000 teams “indicated that the creativity gains produced by higher team diversity are disrupted by the inherent social conflict and decision-making deficits that less homogeneous teams create. It would therefore make sense for organizations to increase diversity in teams that are focused on exploration or idea generation, and use more-homogeneous teams to curate and implement those ideas.”

He adds that for all the talk about the importance of creativity, the critical activity is innovation – implementing creative ideas. “Most organizations have a surplus of creative ideas that are never implemented, and more diversity is not going to solve this problem,” he says.

Other factors to consider:

  • Good leadership helps. It can assist a team in overcoming the conflicts flowing from diversity. A key is to help members understand other people’s perspectives rather than fixating on their own individual agendas.Too much diversity is problematic. We might assume that the relationship between creativity and diversity is linear. But that appears to not be true and a moderate degree of diversity is more beneficial than a higher dose.


  • Psychology outweighs demography: While we tend to focus on gender, age and racial diversity, the most interesting and influential aspects are the psychological elements of diversity, such as personality, values and abilities. Those are the powerful factors to be alert to.


  • Knowledge sharing is key. For diversity to enhance creativity, a culture of sharing knowledge should be in place. “Studies mapping the social networks of organizations have found higher levels of creativity in groups that are more interconnected, particularly when creative and intrapreneurial individuals are a central node in those networks,” he writes.


  • Cynics are persuadable. He says diversity training is actually most effective with individuals who are skeptical of it. Of course, the challenge is to get them on board for training.


  • Other factors than diversity are more powerful in boosting creativity. He says analysis has found that vision, task orientation, support for innovation and external communication are the strongest determinants of creativity and innovation. Team composition and structure have much less impact.


Certainly diversity is nice for organizations to have. But he insists that if your actual goal is to enhance creativity, there are simpler, more effective solutions than boosting diversity.

Source: Diversity and creativity: the link is not as simple as we think – The Globe and Mail

Canada’s diversity, inclusion could win the war for global talent

The business case for diversity by John Montalbano, recently retired vice-chairman of RBC Wealth Management and how Canadian firms should take advantage of the ‘Canadian advantage’ in the era of Trump:

Before my retirement in December, I hosted a steady stream of women and visible minorities bewildered by the events south of our border. Their commonly held fear was that the unhealthy discourse of the election, and its outcome, would make it okay for unconscious (discriminatory) biases to become conscious biases within the workplace. Or, at the very least, allow unconscious biases to be reinforced. This uncertainty and dismay deserves to be addressed by our business leaders, even though the genesis of these fears took place outside of our country.

Corporate leaders who believe that their organizations have a culture that supports meritocracy in the workplace should acknowledge the concerns that have arisen among those who fear the repercussions of recent events. All employees want to hear that their CEO is sensitive to the presently heightened concerns of women, visible minorities, LBGT communities and those with physical challenges. It is the time to be vocal about your commitment to robust diversity practices.

Where gaps exist in a company’s diversity initiatives, this is the perfect time to review and introduce key action items, such as: pay equity (merit and experience should be the key differentiators); diversity targets for board appointments, external recruitment and internal promotions (or similarly a commitment to principles consistent with those introduced by Catalyst Canada, an advocacy organization dedicated to progress for women through workplace inclusion); mentorship programs aimed at building experience and exposure for high performers in mid-management positions where diversity pools are generally deep; campus recruitment programs that reflect local demographics and that of the emerging work force; removal of the stigma of paternity leave, and synchronization of maternity benefits in the United States to those offered in Canada; and introduction of mandatory programs for all senior executives, addressing conscious and unconscious biases.

The war for talent rages and the time is now for our CEOs to boldly declare an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion. “Brand Canada” is our recruiting advantage. Use it to full affect, without apology.

Source: Canada’s diversity, inclusion could win the war for global talent – The Globe and Mail

Diversity is key to success in corporate Canada

Jennifer Reynolds, of Toronto-based Women in Capital Markets, on the business case for diversity:

In my role, I have the pleasure of spending time at universities across the country, meeting with students to talk about their careers and the important role they can play as future business leaders in Canada’s economy.

I am not sure who coined the term, but I often hear Canada’s leadership teams referred to as “male, pale and stale”. While I consider “stale” a bit harsh, the “male and pale” is hard to deny. A mere 12 per cent of TSX publically listed company directors are women, and visible minorities make up 4.5 per cent of FP500 company directors in Canada. One could argue that universities in Canada were not all that ethnically diverse 30 years ago when the current crop of senior leaders were graduating, however, you can’t argue that there were no women there. Women have represented 50 per cent (or more) of university graduates for 30 years. Women have also been abundantly present in middle management roles for years. The pool of female talent for leadership roles in our economy has existed for decades, yet less than 20 per cent of senior officer roles are held by women and 40 per cent of leadership teams in Canada have no women at all.

So as this current generation graduates from universities, can we tell them with confidence that 20 years from now Canada’s leadership teams will look like their classrooms? History would argue that “same likes same” in the corporate world. Unless leaders start challenging that overwhelming desire to hire and promote in one’s own likeness, we will find the disconnect between the demographic in our universities and that in the corporate boardroom continues to persist. The reality is, it will take intentional and tenacious focus to hire, develop and promote diverse talent.

To date, corporate Canada hasn’t been all that strong at developing diverse talent. If we want Canada to lead when it comes to innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness, we must take advantage of the immense pool of diverse talent in this country. Our diversity can be a significant competitive advantage. Volumes of research by credible organizations like Credit Suisse, McKinsey and Catalyst have demonstrated higher levels of gender diversity in leadership result in stronger financial performance, same hold true for ethnic diversity.

If you are a leader that buys into the thesis that you need to access the best of 100 per cent of the talent pool to win in the 21st century, you need to start the hard work now. You need to equip your management team with the motivation and tools to change the way they recruit and develop talent. Most importantly, you need to be the biggest, most vocal and tenacious champion of the need for diversity in your business’s talent pool. Even those with the best of intentions fall back on comfortable practices in challenging times. It will take a long-term view to change habits and culture in any organization and the CEO must champion that change.

When young people start their careers in an organization, they are looking for role models. People they relate to and aspire to emulate. If they don’t see anyone that looks like them, if they don’t fit in with the dominant group, that can appear to be a barrier to their prospects. It needs to be clear that “fit” is not “sameness”, that difference of opinion and perspective is valued, and that the leadership team of tomorrow, will look different than the leadership team today.

The best management teams, the ones the next generation will want to work for, will need to evolve from amalgamating power in one dominant person or group, to recognizing that the highest value they can bring to their organizations is to empower other people. To give power to diversity of thought, ideas and solutions. That is innovation in the 21st century.

Source: Diversity is key to success in corporate Canada – The Globe and Mail

We’re Making the Wrong Case for Diversity in Silicon Valley: Pittinsky HBR

A different take than the usual narrow business case for diversity in favour of one that looks at organizational culture and societal benefits:

One of the most compelling reasons for aspiring to workplace diversity is the self-evident social good it brings: fairness, opportunity, and a society that appreciates and enjoys its natural diversity rather than constantly struggling to accommodate and negotiate it. Remember that throughout the 1950s and 1960s having few African Americans, few Latinos, few Asian Americans, and few white women in management and professional ranks didn’t keep U.S. businesses from creating the most successful economy on earth. But it was a problem for members of those groups and for our society. The conditions needed to be corrected for their own sakes. And, of course, there is still a lot of correcting to do.

Interestingly, the social case for diversity does become a business case when one is willing to look ahead to the longer term. The more the members of an organically diverse society enjoy that diversity and see the visible benefits of investing in shared prosperity and the common good, the more secure and resilient that society will be — possibly not at a given moment, but in the long run. Over a span of decades, a safe and resilient society is very good for business. Here in the United States, this stability goes a long way toward explaining why this country has been such an economic success. And around the globe, research finds that countries with greater social cohesion experience greater economic growth. But this is a long-term and diffuse effect, not a clear boost to anyone’s bottom line this quarter, or even the next.

A More Accurate Business Case for Diversity

Although diversity alone does not increase company profitability in the near term, there is a lot to be gained by investigating the conditions under which it does help. That is, under what conditions does diversity lead not to “us versus them” or even “us and them” but rather to the more desirable, productive, and innovative outcome — “us plus them”?

Research is starting to address this question, pointing the way to a more accurate business case for diversity. Put simply, the negative emotions that tend to go along with bias — fear, anger, contempt, and the like — are damaging. Replace those feelings with positive emotions and we all will benefit. There are, for example, solid empirical research findings suggesting that group- and team-level innovation are more likely in the context of positive emotions. Both classic and more-recent research have found that positive emotions such as joy, interest, and anticipation broaden our awareness and encourage novel, varied, and exploratory thoughts and actions. Over time, this expanded behavioral repertoire helps us build skills and resources. In contrast, negative emotions prompt narrow and immediate behaviors. We narrow our focus to shut out distractions — which is important for survival in the wild but often counterproductive in business. In studies reported by Prof. Barbara Fredrickson, participants watched films that induced positive emotions such as amusement and contentment, negative emotions such as fear and sadness, or no emotions. Viewers who experienced positive emotions then showed more creativity, inventiveness, and big-picture perceptual focus. Taken together, these research findings suggest that because positive emotions make us more open and more creative, they help us discover and build together.

Can diversity encourage such positive emotions? Yes, it can. Although as a society we focus almost exclusively on the negative prejudices, frictions, and conflicts among social groups, research has also found that many individuals have not just a lack of prejudice but also positive feelings such as admiration, comfort, and kinship toward those who are different. Research also finds that leaders who hope to tap this positive power of difference must ferret out any negative prejudices and promote those positive feelings about members of other groups. A company that does so may then expect to find that its own workplace diversity, by encouraging positive emotions, is improving its capacity for innovation.

This is in line with the accumulating body of research confirming that organizational culture plays a key role in sustained innovation. My own research, for example, finds that when we measure the presence of allophilia — positive (not just tolerant) attitudes toward a group other than one’s own — in teams and organizations, we can better predict positive outcomes such as open communication, feelings of inclusion, mentoring across genders and ethnicity, and “bringing one’s whole self” to work. Such benefits are not predicted by a company culture of mere tolerance — that is, not minding the presence of other groups but not having particularly positive attitudes towards them either.

The Case for Patience and Results

Business leaders respect results, and rightly so. But pushing businesses, in Silicon Valley or elsewhere, to increase diversity for bottom line reasons, arguing that it inherently boosts innovation, won’t do. It’s too simplistic and too often just not true.

Instead, we should rely on science to tell us more about which diversity conditions prove productive and which counterproductive. We should be encouraged that positive attitudes such as allophilia and their positive results do exist and can be measured, monitored, and developed in organizations and other groups.

Finally, we should embrace diversity because it provides a foundation for a healthy society. If we can become more disciplined and precise in learning how to create and maintain it in the right ways, this will make for a more prosperous and productive economy in the future.

Todd L. Pittinsky is Professor of Technology & Society at Stony Brook University and a Senior Lecturer at Harvard University.

Source: We’re Making the Wrong Case for Diversity in Silicon Valley

Having a Difficult Conversation with Someone from a Different Culture: HBR

A good piece outlining some of the cultural differences and how to be mindful of them, particularly in difficult conversations:

When you think of it this way, having a difficult conversation with someone from another culture can appear perilous — and it can be. So, what can you do about it?

  • Survey the landscape of the conversation you need to have, and identify potential places where these trip wires might ensnare you.
  • Take stock of what you know about the other person and her culture. If you don’t know anything at all, now is a good time to do some research, because chances are that if it’s a difficult conversation you have to have, then it’s also an important one.
  • Look for places where you can overlap with their style. For most people, it’s not all or nothing. Someone from a task-oriented culture can preface what they say with five to ten minutes of tea and conversation about the relationship, for example, and someone from a more formal culture can intentionally dial down the seriousness for one conversation.
  • Focus on the trip wire that matters the most. If it’s too much pressure to sail over all four of these, prioritize the one you think could be most vital in this particular context.

By definition, it’s never easy to have a difficult conversation. However, when we have these across cultures, it can be downright confounding. By being mindful of these trip wires and delicately stepping over and around them, you can prevent the conversation style from getting in the way of the content.

Source: Having a Difficult Conversation with Someone from a Different Culture

The Daily — Study: Immigration, business ownership and employment in Canada, 2001 to 2010

Another interesting and useful study (see the earlier Immigrants took the brunt of recession-year turn toward self-employment):

Immigrants who have been in Canada for more than 10 years have higher rates of private incorporated business ownership than individuals born in Canada. However, the types of businesses owned by immigrants tend to employ fewer paid workers than those owned by individuals born in Canada, according to a new study.

Rates of business ownership are relatively low among immigrants during their initial years in Canada, but, over time, these rates surpass those for individuals born in Canada.

Among immigrant taxfilers who had been in Canada for 10 to 30 years in 2010, about 6% were owners of private incorporated businesses that employed paid workers. This compares with about 5% of Canadian-born taxfilers. But, while immigrant-owned private incorporated businesses employed, on average, about four paid workers, those owned by Canadian-born individuals had about seven paid workers.

Of all immigrant-owned private incorporated businesses, 45% were located in four industries: professional, scientific and technical services; retail trade; accommodation and food services; and transportation and warehousing. One-third of private incorporated businesses owned by Canadian-born individuals were in these four industries.

The rate of unincorporated self-employment was also higher among longer-term immigrants (22%) than among individuals born in Canada (16%). When restricted to individuals who received at least one-half of their total earnings from unincorporated self-employment—defined as primary unincorporated self-employment—these rates were 12% for the longer-term immigrants and 8% for individuals born in Canada.

Immigrants who were principal applicants in the business class had the highest incidence of incorporated business ownership or primary unincorporated self-employment, with a combined rate of 40%. Among principal applicants in the economic class, the combined rate was 17%, while among both family-class immigrants and refugees, it was 15%.

Source: The Daily — Study: Immigration, business ownership and employment in Canada, 2001 to 2010

New course in entrepreneurship and multiculturalism at Ryerson 

Interesting program and a practical way to leverage Toronto’s (and Canada’s diversity:

Q:  Is this about marketing to specific ethnic segments?

A:  No, we are talking about educating people to be able to adapt to any of the markets they choose. We are not specifically profiling different demographics. We are giving people the tools to understand to test their ideas with that demographic.

Q:  Any other specifics about the course that you would like to share?

A:  One of the greatest things about it is that it takes the best of Ryerson’s different pieces. You learn about business plans, evaluating opportunities and apply it to a setting that you already want to work in. It’s widely impactful and I look forward to talking to the first group of students to hear if they are getting the impact that we had hoped.

There are six courses– the four required courses build skills in ideation, opportunity evaluation, business intelligence, and venture planning within a multicultural context. Additional electives allow students to enhance their skills in areas that suit their specific needs e.g., accounting or communication.

New course in entrepreneurship and multiculturalism at Ryerson | CanIndia NEWS.