Think about the last time you engaged with people in your network. Now think about who those people were—their professional backgrounds, education levels, interests, hobbies. Remind you of anyone? Other contacts, maybe? Maybe even yourself? Here’s why that’s a problem.
As Michael Simmons discusses in a recent article in Forbes, we tend to cluster together in like-minded groups because evolution has taught us that it’s a good way to steer clear of danger. To be fair, it does work—we’re still here, aren’t we? Professionally speaking, though, it’s an issue, and one a lot harder to push past than you think.
Unless you’re, say, Steve Jobs.
Many consider the Apple founder a genius of relationship building. But it started with Jobs’ curiosity about the world and how it works, because it impelled him to seek out diverse groups of people with a wide range of ideas. The magic came with Jobs’ ability to synthesize those ideas. But without exposure to those ideas would he even have had the opportunity to connect his creative dots?
“Job’s magic came with his ability to synthesize the ideas from his diverse experiences. Without that exposure would he even have connected his creative dots?”
Other studies have found value in open networks too. At Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Katharine Phillips and her team reported that heterogeneous groups were better at decision-making (in this case, while solving a “murder”) than their homogeneous counterparts. Interestingly, homogeneous groups were more confident in their more-often-wrong decisions.
That’s because it’s easy to be self-sure when you’re surrounded by people who are likely to second your opinions. But you can see why that would also be the least productive, least innovative dynamic. In teams afflicted by groupthink, new ideas suffocate before they can ever blossom. It’s tension and disagreement that breeds critical thinking and sparks creativity. Argument makes the arguer—provided he is open-minded—see how a bunch of disparate ideas can coalesce into a single great one.
“Homogeneous groups were more confident in their more-often-wrong decisions.”
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