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Want to build a creative, innovative, and quality team in your workplace? Columbia Business School study recommends diversity

The current outcry for more diversity in the entertainment industry has fueled interest in how to increase diversity in the workplace. Amidst the ongoing backlash facing the 2016 Oscar awards for a lack of diversity in nominees and voting members, ABC television recently announced that it has promoted the first African-American to oversee a major broadcast network in the United States. Now, new research from Columbia Business School examines methods that hinder diversity in the workplace, and recommends steps for how to most effectively strengthen diversity efforts.

“The benefits of diversity are really about the different experiences that individuals bring to a problem,” said Katherine Phillips, co-author of the research and senior vice dean and professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia Business School. “Demographically diverse groups make better decisions and produce more innovations, because they bring in different perspectives.”

Their analysis reveals that working in a diverse group changes how people think and leads to more effective, higher quality decisions at the group level and to economic growth at the societal level. Diversity produces these outcomes because it tends to promote creativity and to encourage complex thinking.

“The benefits depend not just on encountering unfamiliar situations, but on wanting to learn about and integrate them,” said Adam Galinsky, lead author of the paper and professor of management at Columbia Business School. “For example, people who have lived in foreign countries and encountered more diversity become more creative and complex in their thinking, but only if they are engaged in learning about others.”

There are often many psychological resistances to increasing diversity efforts. According to their analysis, diverse groups often suffer from greater conflict and disengagement, which can impair group functioning and performance.

The authors recommend a number of solutions for how to increase diversity in the workplace. They suggest:

  • Create recruitment and employment policies that ensure unbiased evaluation criteria, like committing to criteria before reviewing candidates.
  • Report hiring and promotion rates to increase transparency and accountability.
  • Establish inclusive mentorship programs that support both minority and majority groups.
  • Create opportunities to learn about other perspectives and cultures.

The authors suggest that even though these policy changes can potentially impact millions of Americans, policies will only be effective to the degree that they offer incentives and resources to increase and manage diversity.

For the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the authors say that altering its committee of voting members is the first step to help create more diversity within its ranks. But this won’t guarantee more diverse nominees. Real change requires more opportunities for under-represented groups at every level of filmmaking.

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