am firmly convinced that allowing and encouraging diverse viewpoints
and opinions will lead to better decisions in almost all contexts.
me to take a different tack when discussing diversity. While I believe
that achieving diversity in the workplace and in our educational institutions
in the right thing to do, diversity also brings benefits that can be
demonstrated by considering how people can make better decisions.
research over the past 25 years has examined aspects of the decision-making
process. Intrigued when I read about the pitfalls of "groupthink," I
wondered if different points of view, similar to what might be present
in a diverse group, would lead to better decisions than in a "homogeneous" group
with similar opinions.
a term used to describe the tendency of groups to be uncomfortable with
dissent and points of view that are inconsistent with the prevailing positions
within the group. The clear danger is that if the prevailing positions
of the group, whether caused by the influence of leadership or culture,
are wrong, then a poor, often disastrous decision can occur. Famous researcher
Irving Janis has used the groupthink process to explain how groups consisting
of highly competent individuals can make terrible decisions. He cites famous
fiascos, such as the Bay of Pigs and the Challenger disaster, as
being affected by groupthink.
why am I convinced that diversity within groups can lead to better decisions?
In a series of experimental studies, my colleagues and I asked people to
predict the price/earnings (P/E) ratio of various companies based on several
types of financial input. Sometimes, people were given input from experts
who were in total agreement. Other times, people were given input in which
the experts were in partial or total disagreement. As is the case in most
real-life decisions, none of the experts knew exactly what the future P/E
ratios were going to be, although some were pretty close in hindsight.
findings consistently show that people make better financial decisions
when they are given information that involves disagreement between the
experts. While this may seem surprising, the explanation really makes sense.
When exposed to diverse input, people tend to take a closer look at the
problem and the surrounding issues. However, if the experts have a common
position, many decisions-makers may not question the facts of look deeply
into the issues surrounding a problem. Therefore, it makes good "business
sense" to encourage diverse views and to encourage group members to
communicate their views and positions, regardless of the prevailing views
on the matter.
it is also important not to let diverse opinions cause anger among those
who disagree. If people believe that they will be attacked or alienated
for offering a diverse opinion, they will be subjected to the groupthink
pressure and not share their viewpoints.
am firmly convinced that allowing and encouraging diverse viewpoints and
opinions will lead to better decisions in almost all contexts. Furthermore,
one important source of this diversity is the interaction of people with
varied attributes, backgrounds, and experiences. Students learn better
in diverse educational settings, and leaders make better decisions within
organizations that contain diverse employees.
Krannert School of Management strives to achieve a diverse student body
and a diverse faculty and staff. Furthermore, we include the virtues of
diversity in our curriculum. This issue of Krannert Magazine reflects some
of our exciting initiatives.
Dean and Leeds Professor of Management