Dance Challenge - What makes diverse teams successful?
In today's globalised world, virtual teamwork has become a common organisational structure. It is a
form of collaboration that involves team members who are located in different places and who communicate via the Internet, for example by videoconferencing. These team members often live in
different countries and are culturally diverse. Although team diversity can cause difficulties due to ineffective communication and misunderstandings, several studies show that team members from
diverse backgrounds make better business decisions than homogeneous teams and are also more innovative, according to the Harvard Business Review. (See
Diversity refers not only to people from different cultures, but also to aspects such as age, gender and gender identity. According to a study on diversity and financial performance conducted by McKinsey in 2014 and 2017, companies that scored high on gender diversity in their leadership teams were more successful. (See https://www.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity)
This is because the more diverse a team is, the more opportunities it has to approach a problem from different perspectives. In contrast, homogeneous teams tend to approach problems from a similar angle, limiting their potential outcomes. According to Katherine Phillips, a professor at Columbia Business School, team diversity increases information sharing, perspective taking, creativity and effort.
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 and provide inspiring human content for people," according to Forbes.
One series of videos produced by SoulPancake involves a dance challenge. It pairs two different groups of contestants who have to work together to create a
60-second dance in just 30 minutes. Particularly inspiring are the challenges 'Can Ballet + Hip Hop Dancers Create a Routine Together' and 'Cheerleaders + Grandmas Compete in a Dance Challenge'.
The short videos, less than nine minutes long, provide an insightful lesson on the conditions that are conducive to project success when a team is diverse in different ways, for example, in terms
of culture, ethnicity, age or gender. By watching the videos, the following key issues can be identified:
Key aspects contributing to the success of diverse teams
- a limited number of team members (less than 10);
- an inclusive environment that encourages 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 support 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 apply not only to diverse teams. They are also a recipe for success of non-diverse teams, too.