The concept of competence diversity in creative businesses is nothing new. Particularly within brand development, most of us have become well versed in the idea of creating multi-disciplined teams of expertise to ensure the highest creative heights. It’s even one of those things we, as an industry, talk about in our sales pitches. And it is true, multi-competence diversity does add extra dimensions to creativity. But, it’s actually not as impactful as we’d like to believe.
According to research carried out by a number of organisations, including Stanford University, Colombia university and the Credit Suisse research institute, to genuinely heighten creativity, diversity needs to be built on more than people offering different skills. Genuinely impactful diversity needs to create informational diversity. And by that we mean diversity needs to include race, gender, age, social and cultural backgrounds — essentially real difference.
Or, scientifically speaking, something like this:
Take two groups of individuals. Group A are your standard bunch of agency employees — they’re mixed gender, from the same country, similar social-economic backgrounds and education level, but each specialising in a different competence. Then there is Group B. They’re equally from different competence backgrounds and gender but, in contrast to group A, they come from much broader diverse social-economic backgrounds and cultures.
As an experiment each of the groups are given the same task to solve. Importantly each individual within each of the groups is given a unique piece of information to help them solve the problem. And here in lies the interesting part. After evaluation, test results conculded that Group A solved the problem but failed to disclose their unique pieces of information. By contrast Group B participants openly disclosed their unique information, and thanks to that information achieved a more creative solution. Or put simply, true diversity meant that the group participants were willing to share information more freely. Essentially they made no assumptions and asked all those small, seemingly meaningless questions of each other, the sort of questions that lead to new discoveries - informational diversity.
In reality ‘informational diversity’ is nothing new, most of the industry leading agencies and businesses have been defining themselves through multi-cultured employee diversity for numerous years — it just didn’t have a catchy name or researched reasoning behind it, so we all assumed it was just one of those things that only the elite could afford to do. Now, in the light of research, and a catchy name, perhaps we should all be taking ‘informational diversity’ more seriously. Perhaps we should actively be explaining to our clients that genuinely radical, business growing thinking needs true diversity.