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How Diversity Improves Collaboration

written by: Michael Guerrero•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/31/2011

Diversity in a collaboration project is crucial to creating the best results possible. With many different points-of-view you can better serve the needs of more people and think of interesting solutions.

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    How Diversity and Collaboration Combines

    A discussion being held about diversity. Diversity and collaboration go hand in hand. Bringing different views and different voices to a collaborative effort, creates opportunities for people of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences to create something together. Diversity in just about anything is incredibly important for the continued growth of a single person and the entire world.

    Diversity can be wielded as a powerful tool. Think of it as a window that allows us to see life in a different way from how we live it. It shows that no two people are the same and some people have different needs than others, and sometimes lets us experience things that help us improve ourselves and our skills.

    When you take on a collaborative effort you are not saying that you want a group of the same people to work on the project because they would consistently agree with each other, or what the best course of action is in making the collaboration process only beneficial to those within the group.

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    Conflict Equals Creativity and Representation

    Everyone has valuable insight based on their experiences. Conflict is often seen as a detrimental thing when applied to projects, because it can sometimes hold up the project until the conflict is resolved. However, in the context of a collaborative effort, it allows for people to share their view points, compare each others ideas, and work towards building something that both parties can agree on, or at least until they decide on the better solution. Conflict can also spawn new ideas that neither of the parties had even considered, which allows for an even better result to be applied to the project.

    To be honest, my experience with working alongside different cultures of people is limited to brief one-on-one collaborations, but I have managed a team who had different goals, backgrounds, and opinions which ended up breeding a lot of conflict. Despite these conflicts we used them to fuel a lot of really great discussions, which helped us accomplish a lot and ensure that all aspects of the project were being run as equally as we could feasibly could.

    The more diverse your collaborative team is, the more conflict is created. This can be invaluable to projects that involve a large group of people that would otherwise have no say in the matter. For example, an agricultural research company can prioritize their research and funding based on the needs of the farmers that grow the food, the sellers of the product, and the people who consume the product by bringing someone from each of these backgrounds to voice their individual concerns. This can also help educate either of the parties in the needs of another party, and help them empathize and come up with a solution that helps them all.

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    Diversity and Specialized Skills

    Everything works together in some way to create beautiful products. As your collaborative effort diversifies, you will likely start to notice that you have several people with specialized skills from their past experiences, that could come in handy as the collaborative effort takes off. This can save a lot of time and effort when working on a project, because rather than having to ship work off to specialists, you may have some already in-house that would be willing to do it themselves. Doing this will help strengthen bonds to the team and the project because people are more involved in all the aspects of the project.

    Efforts of diversity and collaboration also create a melting pot where people can teach each other their specialized skills, which can help alleviate work loads and improve the team's overall performance in other projects that may require those skills. Let's say for example a situation arises where a document is corrupted, and a skilled person on your team with software experience is capable of repairing the file. They can then teach other members of the team how to fix or avoid this problem in the future, and save potentially hours of re-writes.

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    Working With Misunderstandings

    Many Voices 2007 Book Signing I think that the big thing in dealing with a diverse group of people is that everyone has a lingering fear of the unknown about them. No one wants to offend someone and feel ignorant as a result so we work ourselves into a nervous wreck trying to make sure we don't make a mistake. When you bring a diverse group of people into a collaborative effort, you increase the chances of cultural misunderstandings in business to occur. Don't worry though! These misunderstandings can be incredibly positive for you and your collaborative effort.

    Cultural misunderstandings don't have to be a relationship ending event. Quite the opposite in fact! These misunderstandings can help both parties understand each other a little better and can promote healthy growth as they take interest in each others cultures, if not for genuine interest than at bare minimum to earn each others respect.

    The best thing you can do for yourself when collaborating with a diverse group is to prepare yourself as best as possible, and show that you're genuinely trying to learn. This creates a bond that is important in a business relationship where trust and respect are more valuable than anything.

    Another positive is that you can treat this newly found knowledge as a specialized skill. You may know more about a culture in your company than anyone previously did. This kind of knowledge is valuable when you are globalizing a product or introducing more of your employees to the culture.

    There is one profound experience that I can recall about my previous work in graphic design. I always got so worked up over having to interact with overseas clients, even though it was a telecomm project and they spoke English fairly well, I was still deathly afraid I would somehow step on cultural toes and offend them. And I did! Several times in fact, but they were incredibly polite in correcting me and helping me learn what I did or said wrong. I just made sure that I was taking genuine interest in their cultural differences and customs, or at least showed that I was trying my best to learn to respect them.

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    Credits

    All images used for promotional purposes only and are listed in the order they appear.

    Diversity Discussion April 27, 2010-36 by InkyHack

    Diversity Clucks by Chris J Fry

    Pseudo-Diversity by F2Point8

    Many Voices 2007 Book Signing by ALA - The American Library Association

    Sources: For more information regarding diversity in the work place please, take a look at the American Institute for Managing Diversity's (AIMD) website.