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How culturally diverse is your team?

How culturally diverse is your team? In this article, Dr Lee Martin explores how the level of cultural diversity can influence how teams function.
How Culturally Diverse Is Your Team
© Deakin University

The number of cultures represented in a team can shape the way a team functions.

Although we talk about cultural diversity in teams, it’s not just about whether or not a team is culturally diverse. It’s also about the degree of cultural diversity – this can make a big difference to how the team functions.

The number of cultures represented in a team determines the degree of cultural diversity.

The following types of team range in cultural diversity from high to low:

Visual representation of cultural diversity team types. Groups of people colour-coded to represent the following. Heterogenous team: A mix of different cultures; Cultural faultline team: A small number of subgroups of cultures; Token team: everybody except one person has the same culture; Homogenous team: Everyone has the same culture.© Deakin University. Click on the image to open the PDF version.

Do multicultural teams outperform monocultural teams?

There is no easy answer to this question, as it depends on various factors such as:

  • Task complexity – The more complex the task, the more likely the team will benefit from diverse viewpoints.
  • Time – Multicultural teams can become more effective at certain tasks if they are given more time, compared to a monocultural team that may perform cohesively together sooner.
  • Degree of cultural diversity – Groups with high or low cultural diversity have been found to perform better than those with moderate amounts of diversity.

Your task

Based on your experiences, do you think it is easier, or harder to work in a culturally diverse team (compared to a homogenous team)? Is there an ideal degree of cultural diversity in a team?

Discuss your thoughts with other learners in the comments.

© Deakin University
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Leading Culturally Diverse Teams in the Workplace

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