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Mixed findings on whether diverse work groups function more effectively

One argument for having a demographically diverse slate of members on a team is that diversity produces innovation and creativity. A chapter in a recent book, however, by a strong proponent of diversity, not only doesn’t support the argument with research findings, but admits doubt. The following quote comes from Laura Empson, ed., Managing The Modern Law Firm: New Challenges New Perspectives (Oxford Univ. Press 2007) at 51 (by David Wilkins).

Wilkins cites a 2001 article that found the empirical research on whether and how diversity is actually related to work group function is limited “and the evidence is mixed.” Wilkins believes that other research has found that diversity’s boost to productivity “depends on the attitude and orientation that group members bring to their work.” Prejudice not only blocks the hoped-for benefits of diversity but can even hinder team performance if the team has to “negotiate the kinds of conflict and communication issues that often beset diverse groups.”

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