Why team diversity can give you the competitive advantage

Almost 48 hours on, a chance for the bitten nails all across the country to start to grow back. On Sunday afternoon, the English cricket team delivered in what will go down as one of the greatest sporting spectacles in history.  Given the occasion, the ebbing and flowing of the game, the emergence of heroes and villains, the constant plot twists that should they be included in a Hollywood blockbuster, you’d be forgiven for calling it corny and cheesy. It was truly a game that will never be forgotten and the basis for success is a team built on diversity.

It’s long been endorsed that companies can draw inspiration from successful sports teams.  Management literature has been flooded with books from prominent sports figures who share their secrets of how they built a winning team and help set a blueprint for senior management.  One of the most important elements, which the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson would describe as the foundation for success, is the structure of the team.

 

Yesterday’s historic win was done so with a team structure that was very multicultural, with the players and management crediting the diversity amongst the squad a key component to the achievements. The England captain, himself born and raised in Dublin, referenced in his press conference that the team drew strength from its diverse backgrounds and cultures. England’s World Cup winners were led by an Irishman and also featured players born in Barbados (Jofra Archer), New Zealand (Ben Stokes) and South Africa (Jason Roy). Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are both practicing Muslim’s, who had to run for cover as the other squad members did the customary champagne spray so not to come in contact with alcohol – a move that has been widely praised as the video went viral.

Sport is a prominent social institution where the language of diversity is frequently and positively used; yet it hasn’t always translated into actual practice.

 

 

 

The England Cricket Board must be commended for their approach to break the stigma surrounding a sport with deep upper-class traditions. They have shown commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion across the sport and that commitment has now been rewarded with England winning the World Cup for the first time in the competitions 44-year history.

 

This formula for success can prevail in the workplace.

 

A diverse workplace not only offers exposure to different cultures and backgrounds, but it also enables employees to learn from co-workers whose work style and attitudes will differ and complement each other. Research suggests that being around people who are different from us, makes us more creative, diligent and hard-working.

 

It should be pointed out that the makeup of a team needs to be more than the symbolic participation; it must increase the people’s actual participation. Moeen Ali has publicly spoken about the England teams’ different backgrounds and cultures and the fact everyone embraces it, rather than shy away from it.  “The amazing thing about our team is that guys took time out very early on to talk to us about our religion and our culture. They have made adjustments for us and we have for them. And we live in harmony”, said Ali.” Promoting an environment that is flexible to its workforce’s backgrounds and avoids a one-size-fits-all approach will see tangible and direct benefits.

 

To create a corporate culture where their staff feel their employers understand and truly care for them will lead to greater productivity and unite the workforce through a common purpose.  Diversity is about recognizing that we all succeed in different ways. Every one of us can take inspiration from our backgrounds and if the DNA of the team has varied characteristics with different skills and experiences, it can deliver the company a serious competitive advantage much like that of the most successful England cricket team in the nation’s history.