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Guarding against groupthink

Published: 2013-10-07

Associate Professor Robert Lount

Soliciting a diverse range of thoughts and opinions isn't anything new in team problem solving. But what about social diversity among those tasked with solving complex problems? Research conducted by Fisher's Robert Lount and his colleagues found that teams with social diversity are more likely to capitalize on disagreement to make better group decisions than homogenous teams.

In addition, the studies, which examined the problem-solving interactions of 259 undergraduate students, found that:

  • A decrease in relationship focus (a person's desire to establish a positive social bond with coworkers) is advantageous as it helps improve information processing
  • This information processing occurs in early interactions with team members, prior to any formal decision-making meetings

The study suggests that social diversity can help elicit diversity of thought – and that reduced concerns about "getting along" helps free up resources to solve potential problems when working together.