Recent research and popular debate suggest that there can be a positive relationship between diversity, or differences in team member characteristics, and performance in novel problem-solving. In this study, we take steps to disambiguate the causal effects of knowledge diversity versus demographic diversity (gender, race, age) on innovation performance. We report on a field experiment in which 834 adults engaged in an inherently multi-disciplinary product development problem. Team composition was randomly assigned, as was the degree to which teams were primed to engage in a collaborative orientation and work style. We find that performance effects of knowledge and demographic diversity are—to a striking degree—statistically separate, independent, and qualitatively distinct. Consistent with prior literature, the results indicate largely distinct implications of diversity on knowledge integration versus group problem-solving processes. Apart from this main goal of disambiguating diversity effects most broadly, the study contributes a series of results on causal effects of knowledge, gender, race, and age diversity in a field experimental context.
Contact: Svenja Friess