While on a flight to Wisconsin, I was reading a series of articles in Scientific American on diversity when it struck me that we have a problem in engineering: we value being a “good team member” over diversity. I think most managers see a team as a group of people selected to do their bidding. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been accused of not being a “team player” or asked by a human resources (HR) manager if I was a team player. Of course, the “correct” answer if you want the job is an unblinking “Yes” — a smile sells it!
However, a team can gain significant strengths from diversity and a climate open to contrary views. A good team member has the courage to voice opinions and a genuine curiosity for those of others. What was interesting in the Scientific American articles is how science had shown that diversity spurs creative, effective problem solving.