How communications shapes team diversity
Throughout history, many important discoveries and scientific breakthroughs have been made by teams that have a diverse group of people.
For example, Rosalind Franklin helped discover the structure of DNA and Chien-Shiung Wu disproved a law in nuclear physics.
Both worked in teams from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
Many experts believe that having a diverse team is good for being creative and making progress.
But current thinking doesn’t take into account how communication affects how team members perceive and frame differences.
A recent study suggests a new way of thinking about diversity in teams.
The study argues that it’s not just about having differences, but how those differences are talked about and handled that really matters for a team.
They call this “activated differences” which means when the differences between team members become noticeable in how they talk and work together.
For example, one team may focus on disciplinary differences (differences in what people study or work on) while another team may focus on organisational differences (differences in where people work or what company they work for).
The researchers found that teams can frame the same difference in different ways, and this can have a big impact on how well the team works together.
For example, one team may see disciplinary differences as a burden, while another team may see them as necessary for making a creative and impactful project.
The researchers also found that the way a team talks and communicates can affect how well they work together.
Teams that framed their differences positively were more successful than teams that framed their differences negatively.
The researchers highlight the importance of considering activated differences, the communicative processes of framing and perception of differences, and the timing of differences when studying diversity on teams.
By understanding how differences are activated, framed, and perceived, teams can work to create a more inclusive and effective work environment for all members.
Explore further this topic in Luisa Ruge-Jones, et. al., 2023, Activated Differences: A qualitative study of how and when differences make a difference on Diverse Teams, Management Communication Quarterly,