Admit it: You would rather work with people who are pretty much just like you.
It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with people who share common traits, habits or values. But there is real danger in surrounding yourself with a bunch of “mini-mes.”
Research shows that “homogeneity” can lead to individuals underestimating the actual complexity of tasks facing a group “because they assume that others’ behavior is more predictable than it actually is,” says Evan Apfelbaum, the W. Maurice Young Career Development Professor of Management and an assistant professor of organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Why? Apfelbaum explains that those in homogenous groups tend to believe that because others look like them, they are like them in terms of having similar perspectives, knowledge and behavior.
“This assumption of like-mindedness feels comfortable; it caters to our basic human need for social acceptance and inclusion. But it also creates blind spots in our judgments and behavior,” he says. “We underestimate the potential for seemingly similar others to have substantively different perspectives and ideas, which can lead us to make oversimplified, perhaps even, objectively inaccurate, assessments in these contexts.”
A Harvard University study further underscores the problem of collaborating with those who have similar backgrounds.
Specifically, researchers found that venture capitalists tended to collaborate with people who were a lot like themselves, in terms of race, past employers and the college attended.
But those who shared a lot of personal characteristics were generally much less successful in their deals than those who worked together based on talent. For two members of the same ethnic minority, for example, their likelihood of success dropped 25%. In another example, two investors sharing the same college alma mater were 22% less successful.
Researchers say the reason friends may not deliver the best results is because they may tend to think alike – or even force themselves to think alike. Instead of challenging one another and risking a confrontation, they seek harmony and don’t see potential pitfalls or accept diverse opinions.
It’s clear from research that diversity can benefit your career and your company. So, if you’re ready to break out of your comfort zone and begin seeking diverse opinions and ideas that can help you be more innovative, challenged and successful, think about:
What are some ways to become more diverse in your career?