About group tenure, over-confidence and value-add from D&I

New airtight research shows that high group tenure leads to over-confidence that can be corrected by demographic diversity. The results also raise question about wide-spread D&I approaches. When science meets reality…

New Research about Groupthink Proves D&I Adds Value …

… and questions wide-spread D&I approaches at the same time

Do you love – and need—evidence about the proven benefits of diversity and inclusion (D&I) to shape your work and convince others? An empirical study of the influence of diversity and tenure in management teams has been added to a body of more than 250 airtight findings about the value D&I can add. Determinants of Group-Level Overconfidence in Teams: A Quasi-Experimental Investigation of Diversity and Tenure, by Philip Meissner, et al, analyzed the effect of cognitive biases in the decision-making process, where confidence is a primary component.

The researchers found that under-confidence and overcon­fidence lead to vastly different results. They were able to prove that demographic diversity reduces group overconfidence, while group tenure increases it.

The study also shows that high group tenure leads to a homogenization of perceptions and beliefs (aka groupthink), and group overconfidence, whereas diversity (e.g., gender, educational background, and/or highest degree obtained) lessens the groupthink and group overconfidence that can lead to poor quality decision-making, according to separate research.

Wake-up Call for D&I?

These findings regarding the specific effect of tenure on the quality of the decisions made by teams send a valuable message to companies that value length of service and prefer to develop their management from within. Also, individual D&I managers and executives can see the study as an opportunity to reflect on how much they rely on one or more of the following when making decisions:

  • Long experience in D&I management
  • Learning from peers who come from a similar industry
  • Recommendations from experts with similar (educational, functional, regional) backgrounds

For sure: digital resources and networks nowadays offer D&I information and input in a quick and easy way. In such a convenient situation: who would not prefer to forget about the echo chamber side-effect of filter bubbles – which is no different for many peer net­works? Do we realize that many of our most relied-upon sources are actually those with ‘high tenure’?

Future Success for D&I … or at least Survival

As populist forces, globalization, and digitalization are challenging traditional approaches to D&I— and threatening some of the foundations of equality and par­ticipation—the success, progress, and even the survival of D&I will require us to do the following:

  • Rigorously base our approaches on robust evidence about the business value of D&I and the concrete contributions it offers (rather than political or ethi­cal considerations, or generic statements or pledges)
  • Consistently address and include audiences beyond our traditional spheres and rethink associated messages and formats (this includes being ready to value and include the so-called main­stream as much as Diversity constituencies)
  • Carefully redesign, mature, and tailor D&I strategies to acknowledge the specific situation of a given organiza­tion and context, including D&I development phase, persisting gaps, past learning, and business priorities (rather than follow the herd, imple­menting strategies that work well “everywhere else”)

A New Perspective on Role Modelling

In summary, this means that D&I must be willing to take a quantum leap forward. Regarding the established elements of our D&I agendas, a new approach will require unlearning some of the things that made us successful in the past, consciously looking beyond our proven and tested sources, and confronting the implicit assumptions about D&I we have formed over decades.

If we look at what D&I has proclaimed for and demanded from business leaders in terms of ideal behaviors, we should address groupthink, drive innovation in our own area, and be(come) the role models we know are required to lead change and advance our agenda.

The article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of Profiles in Diversity Journal