by Tiera S. Coston
"Colorful World Globe Human Family" by GDJ is licensed under CC BY.
The idea of diversity has been a popular theme in every aspect of society from sports and politics to economics and education. And, it should be. Countless studies have shown that diverse groups make better decisions and obtain better results than uniform groups. The nature of the diversity includes everything from ethnicity, gender, and the type of work performed to sexual orientation, geographic location and religion. Richard Freeman and Wei Huang specifically demonstrated this phenomenon in the area of research. Through an analysis of 2.5 million research papers, the duo revealed that papers with a more ethnically diverse group of authors were published in higher-impact journals and were cited more often than papers whose authors were of the same ethnicity.1 There are many possible reasons for this effect, but some cited by Freeman and Wei include: 1) a greater variety of perspectives addressing the problem; 2) extra effort or work put in by group members to overcome possible cultural or communication barriers; 3) exposure of the group's work to diverse networks because of the makeup of the group; and 4) exposure of the group to various tools and languages to address the problem. Despite these advantages, we, as individuals in society, tend to collaborate most with those with whom we have similarities on some level. Studies like the one conducted by Freeman and Huang provide us a glimpse of potential successes, breakthroughs and triumphs that are possible when we engage in problem-solving with diverse teams. We are called upon to use this information as an impetus to purposefully seek out collaborative relationships with those whose background, outlook, and professional and personal circles are different from our own.
1. Freeman RB, Huang W. Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-Authorship within the U.S. Journal of Labor Economics, Special Issue on High Skill Immigration [Internet]. 2015;33 (3):S289-S318.