Better Ideas Through Culturally Diverse Teams

Last Updated Jul 29, 2011 3:45 PM EDT

Want your company to get more creative about solving problems? Here's one way: Fill your teams with people from different cultures.

In a recent research paper, Harvard Business School professor Roy Chua offered that such cultural diversity can promote a greater flow of new ideas and concepts when the task at hand involves an international component. (However, creativity was equal when multicultural teams tackled a local problem, so not every challenge benefits from the many-culture approach.)

He also cautions that it's not enough that a team have around-the-globe representation. Members should also be chosen for their skill at communicating across cultural boundaries, individuals who demonstrate "cultural metacognition. It's important that team members from different cultures connect on an emotional as well as intellectual level.

Read more in his paper, Innovating at the World's Crossroads.

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(Photo by Flickr user frerieke, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.