Through the study, Sujin Jang, INSEAD’s assistant professor of organisational behaviour, found that a multicultural team can significantly enhance the overall teams’ creative performance and foster integration between members.
While every company has a different cultural context, the research suggests that all firms stand to gain by leveraging the diverse knowledge and perspectives of their increasingly multicultural teams.
“Organisations would do well to think about the conditions they could put in place to facilitate cultural brokerage,” Jang said.
“For example, it may be helpful to give recognition to potential cultural brokers or provide opportunities for them to enact this role, as they are not always the most senior person in their team.”
Jang had analysed data from a global business student competition that ran over five years, which had participants from more than 40 countries work in teams to produce business plans for a company of their choice.
The study found that ‘cultural outsiders’, individuals who did not share a common background with the rest of the team, were just as effective as ‘cultural insiders’ at fostering creativity in the team.
“These results show how multiculturals can enable teams to capitalise on strengths of cultural diversity to generate creative outcomes, while avoiding the pitfalls associated with cross-cultural collaboration,” Jang said.
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Culturally-diverse teams with one or more members from a different background outperform teams that lack diversity, based on a new study by business school INSEAD.