Assess Your Team

Close the Gender Gap! Problem Solving Improves When More Women are on the Team

Years ago, our founder Ned Herrmann proposed that gender-balanced, heterogeneous teams would be more creative and effective. At the time, this idea seemed reasonable to most, but was challenged by others who felt it was perhaps too politically correct and difficult to prove. At last there is research, published this week in Science Daily, that substantiates this premise.

Although it makes sense that diversity – having different perspectives on a given problem and its solution, would drive innovation – it is often overlooked as a critical process step. Our research has demonstrated that mental diversity in a team or group can provide up to 66% more effectiveness vs. random groups. Fred Keeton, Chief Diversity Officer for Harrah’s has applied that to create what he calls Diverse By Design teams to tackle the company’s most pressing business problems.

This latest research sought to better understand how groups perform and more specifically what might facilitate or hinder that performance: “We set out to test the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different kinds of tasks," says Anita Williams Woolley, the paper's lead author and an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business.

"Our hypothesis was confirmed," continues Thomas W. Malone, a co-author and Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. "We found that there is a general effectiveness, a group collective intelligence, which predicts a group's performance in many situations."

Groups that show greater “social sensitivity,” which entails effectively perceiving others’ emotions, performed better than other groups, especially those that were one-person dominated. The “social sensitivity” factor was greater in groups with more women—which can also be substantiated by our HBDI® assessment research showing that women overall tend to have stronger preferences in that domain.

I have gotten mixed reactions to our gender-related research over the years. Some women find it offensive to imply that they are using their brains differently than men do. The facts and research do prove however that women do use their brains differently, and there are important consequences that emerge. Our differences can in fact be an advantage as this research demonstrates.

Difference does not imply better or worse, right or wrong, but may make our group process feel more annoying or cumbersome. Bringing together different preferences and styles into a group process may be inconvenient and require greater facilitation skills, but the fact is, when you can effectively harness those varied styles through Whole Brain® Thinking techniques, you will get better results.

As the Science Daily article explains, “When it comes to intelligence, the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts.”

You can find more success factors for diverse teams by downloading the article, Improve Group Productivity.

Get your copy of the Whole Brain Business Book here!


Tags: innovation, Brain Research, Productivity, Whole Brain Thinking

The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.

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