CIO Symmetry

Apr 10 2009   1:24PM GMT

The recession and oddballs: Working with Dwight Schrute

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Looking for ways to do more with less? Drive innovation? Develop some overall new ideas? A new study suggests having a “socially distinct newcomer” in your team can help with decision making.

The study, recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, asked groups of students from different sororities and fraternities to solve a murder mystery. Each group contained an “outsider.” In this case, the outsider was someone from a different social circle – someone who stood out within the crowd. The study authors found that whenever a member of the original group agreed with the outsider, that original group member tended to elaborate and explain why they agreed with the newcomer to prevent alienation from the rest of the original group.

How does this pertain to you? We all work with someone similar to Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office (if you think you don’t, that person is probably you. Congratulations!) But don’t ostracize, embrace! The study concluded that the incorporation of new workers with different backgrounds and perspectives helps existing teams make better decisions by encouraging more discussion and analysis.

So if a restructuring or merger introduces a new member to your group or team who isn’t quite like everyone else, welcome the diversity. Part of being a good leader, after all, is leading a high-performing team, and diversity produces better discussions and results.

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