Rick Santorum said a while ago that when/if he’s elected he would not make the mistake that this President has made and surround himself with too many different points of view. He would want to encircle the oval office with like-minded people to solve the country’s problems. Now, whatever your political leanings are aside, this is a terrible terrible idea. Having a bunch of people looking at the problem in the same way is going to get you the same result as looking at it with 1 pair of eyes.
Living in California, it is difficult for me to even imagine living or working with people who are not part of a different culture than I am. Even working in a predominantly white area, there are plenty of other cultures in the area. There can be many benefits to this as well as some difficulties. Larson (2007) found that the more heterogeneous a group, the better problem solvers they will be. Adler and Gunderson (2008) claim that more than 100,000 high-technology, free-market firms are operating outside their own home country.
The benefits of a multicultural team can be many. Earley and Erez (1997) explain that different skill sets, beliefs, values, experiences, and resources will be made available in a multicultural group. The limitation on group think is a great benefit to a multicultural team as well (Adler & Gunderson, 2007). The differences in backgrounds and experiences will contribute to more and better ideas, which can lead to more alternatives, but can also contribute to confusion (Adler & Gunderson, 2007). And we’ve seen what detriments can become of group think: Bay of Pigs, the Challenger, the 2nd Iraq War, and the list goes on and on.
Being able to bring many different view points to the table is a benefit to an organization. You get different perspectives, different values, and different strategies. What’s the point of having 5 people with the same skill-set? Do you see any successful football teams that have 2 running backs do the same thing, or WRs with the same value? No. Because having two of the same person is a waste of your time and money. Surround yourself with ideas you don’t have so that you don’t miss anything. Close that window of weakness by getting different sides of the story. If not for your own personal benefit, do it for the organization.
Adler, N. & Gunderson, A. (2008). International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior (5th Ed.). Cincinnati, OH, US: Southwestern.
Early, P., & Erez, M. (eds) (1997). New Perspectives on International Industrial Organizational Psychology. San Francisco, CA, US: Pfeiffer.
Larson, J.R. (2007). Deep diversity and strong synergy: Modeling the impact of variability in members’ problem-solving strategies on group problem-solving performance. Small Group Research, 38, 413-436. DOI: 10.1177/1046496407301972.