Dance Challenge - What makes diverse teams successful?
In today's globalized world, virtual teamwork has become a common organizational structure. It is a form of collaboration that involves team members who are located in different places and communicate via the internet, for example by videoconference. These team members often live in different countries and are culturally diverse. Although team diversity may cause difficulties due to ineffective communication and misunderstandings, various studies show that team members from diverse backgrounds make better business decisions than homogenous teams and are also more innovative, according to the Harvard Business Review. (See https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter)
Diversity does not only refer to people from different cultures, it also includes aspects like age, gender and gender identity. According to a study conducted by McKinsey in 2014 and 2017 on diversity and financial performance, companies that scored high for gender diversity on their executive teams were more successful. (See https://www.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity)
This is due to the fact that, the more diverse a team is, the more opportunities it has to address a problem from different perspectives. In contrast, homogeneous teams tend to approach problems from a similar angle, which limits their potential results. According to Katherine Phillips, who was a professor at Columbia Business School, team diversity enhances information sharing, perspective taking, creativity and effort, among other things.
Soul Pancake and Dance Challenge Videos
In 2008, American actor Joshua Homnick and two friends launched the website SoulPancake with the aim of creating some positive content on the internet. The site grew into “a digital media company with a very specific mission: to uplift, entertain, provide inspiring human content for people”, according to the American business magazine Forbes.
One set of videos produced by SoulPancake involves a dance
challenge. It pairs two different groups of participants to work together to create a 60-second dance in only 30 minutes. The challenges Can Ballet + Hip Hop Dancers Create a Routine
Together?, Coaches + Salsa Dancers Compete in a Dance Challenge,
and Cheerleaders + Grandmas Compete in a Dance Challenge are
particularly inspiring. The three short videos, less than nine minutes long, teach an insightful lesson on the conditions that are conducive to project success when a team is diverse in different
respects, for example culture, ethnicity, age or gender. By watching the videos, the following key aspects can be identified:
Key aspects that contribute to the success of diverse teams
- a limited number of team members (less than 10);
- an inclusive environment that supports open communication and collaboration
so that all members can contribute to the decision-making process;
- team members have good communication skills and emotional intelligence;
- team members are supportive of each other;
- team members are committed to success;
- team members have clear goals and expectations; their goals are SMART
according to Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives:
Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
Achievable (agreed, attainable)
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
Another essential feature of successful diverse teamwork is that “we should not be shaped by culture but rather be shaping culture, discussing our own rules of engagement with others. We should be co-defining team cultures, so that teams can make the most of their talents and perform in the most efficient manner for specific situations”, as Bob Dignen explains in 20 skills for the 2020s in Business Spotlight 3/2020.
The above-mentioned factors are not only true for diverse teams. They are a recipe for success of non-diverse teams, too.