I spent last weekend on a fabulous girly trip to Milan. I have the pleasure of having known my friends since age 11, they actually all knew each other since age 4 but welcomed me with open arms (to ‘the possy’….yes that really was our group name) at secondary school. Over these years we have all grown to be very different, but there is something special that happens when a group of girls get together. There is a certain dynamic and je-ne-sais-quoi that just happens!
Reflecting back over my weekend and the various pointless discussions and heated debates we had, one thing strikes me: we are actually all very different. We have had very different experiences in life, been part of contrasting relationships, we have been to places and seen things that we actually couldn’t even describe to each other. But despite these differences, something just works when we get together. I guess the question is, does the magic happen ‘despite’ these differences, or is it actually ‘because’ of them?!
It sounds silly to say, but despite preaching the benefits for my whole career, through this process of reflection it dawned on me that I finally understood the point that has been made about diversity! If you are able to bring together a group of diverse individuals but allow them the space, environment, provocation and time to learn, challenge, develop and grow – then maybe we can exploit this to generate truly highly performing teams?
Can I explain what the precise ingredients would be to exploit diversity to create a high performing team? No. But can I say with confidence that having 3 clones of me would not make for a more fun an interesting weekend in Milan.
Although I may not be able to define the precise ingredients, there are certain conditions which will cultivate the development and cohesion of a diverse group as a high performing team; establishing goals; clear decision making; feedback; stability; allowing for and providing challenge; attracting new talent; defining team based rewards; continuous learning, and; a driving towards a collective goal.
As Einstein once said “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Therefore don’t assume the same from every individual, but look for the differences and opportunities every special person brings to the group and harness what they bring to the party to achieve a sum of results which are greater than the individual.