Battlepanda: Diversifying the portfolio


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Diversifying the portfolio

Can having a more diverse staff boost a company's bottom line? I'm not quite convinced yet, since there could be any number of correlations that cause the effect, but it's interesting research anyhow. This part grabbed my attention especially:
Something more subtle -- and intriguing -- also seems to happen when people of color join groups that were formerly all white: The entire group starts to think in new ways. Minorities, in other words, not only bring new perspectives to the table but also seem to catalyze new thinking among others.

Tufts University psychologist Sam Sommers recently created mock juries -- either all white or diverse -- with volunteers from the public. He then provided the groups with ambiguous information about a crime involving a sexual assault and a black defendant. Sommers asked his "jurors" to judge whether the defendant was guilty.

About a third of whites in juries that were diverse thought the defendant was guilty, while 50 percent of the jurors in all-white groups reached that conclusion. What was really interesting, however, is that Sommers had people draw their conclusions before the groups had any discussions. The mere presence of people of color in the diverse groups caused whites to think differently about the case.

There's a little more detail in this NPR interview with Shankar Vedantam. It might not be slam-dunk support for why companies should be diverse, but perhaps compelling evidence that our police force and juries should be.

UPDATE: I emailed Shankar Vedantam regarding his piece (in particular questioning whether Herring controled for geographical factors such as southern companies being more likely to be less productive as well as less diverse.) Shankar responded that Herring controlled for much more factors than Shankar was able to get into in his piece, which is fair enough I guess. I still feel like the more compelling experiment of the two was Sommers studies, but that Sommers' studies don't really support Shankar's main point, i.e. more diverse companies are more creative.