Why You Should Work With People You Don’t Like

March 5, 2011  

Innovation Framework[This article originally appeared on the American Express Open Forum]

Contrary to “conventional wisdom,” opposites don’t do NOT attract. While individuals who are different than you might initially seem intriguing, in the long run these differences will invariably push you apart. This fact has been scientifically proven. Science aside, consider your personal relationships. If you prefer to be organized, do you praise your messy partner for his clutter? Probably not. And if you have a propensity for disorganization, don’t you cringe at your partner’s earnest pleas for orderliness?

The fact is, opposites don’t attract. They repel.

What implications does this have on business success?

Think about the people you surround yourself with at work. Are they like you? Do they think the same way? Do they have similar interests, skills and strengths? Probably.

In fact, if you look at any group of people who work effortlessly together, odds are the individuals share a lot in common with one another. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, hobbies or personalities. This is natural. As a result, teams that lack diversity are the norm.

This desire for similarity has inherent advantages. When people think the same way, act the same way, speak the same way, and use the same language, things get done more quickly.

But is this ultimately good for business?

To answer this question, consider research done by Clint Bowers and two of his colleagues at the University of Central Florida. They studied how the homogeneity of personalities within work groups affected performance by combining the results of thirteen studies involving five hundred teams.

At first glance, there wasn’t much difference in the performance of diverse teams compared to homogeneous teams. But that wasn’t the whole story. The types of tasks the teams had to perform had a significant impact on performance.

Bowers and his colleagues went further and distinguished “low-difficulty” tasks from “high-difficulty” tasks based on how much the tasks activities involved uncertainty, complexity and demand for high-level processing.

Read the rest of this article on the American Express OPEN Forum

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